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What You Need to Know: Remote Monitoring with Cellular

Cellular networks can be used to transmit data from a remote sensorIn a previous article, we discussed the possibility of using radios to transmit your data from remote locations. While radios are an excellent option, you may want to consider using a cellular network instead.

A cellular connection offers a few advantages. In general, they are quite easy to setup and maintain. They offer a quick installation at a low cost, and work in areas where radio may not be an option. However, it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into.

What You Will Need

You will need to purchase a cellular modem and a data plan. There are two main types of cellular networks. The first is GSM which AT&T and T-Mobile use and the other is CDMA, which is used by Verizon and Sprint. Depending on which carrier you prefer, will determine which type of cellular modem you will need; whether it be a modem for GSM or CDMA services.

You will also need to provide power to your equipment. Common strategies include using solar panels, batteries, or a standard power supply if available. 

Data Plans

While pricing may be slightly different, it is just like the data plan for your smartphone or tablet, and the cost is calculated by data usage. Some plans offer 1 MB for $10 a month. This may be ideal if you are using just one sensor. For example, the amount of data transmitted by our LOE remote level sensor from a single reading ranges from 8 – 160 bytes. So if you wanted a reading every hour you would still have about a ½ MB leftover every month. If you desire more readings, perhaps every 10 minutes for example, or if you have multiple sensors, you can look into data plans that allow up to 3 GB per month which, on average, cost $30 a month.

Coverage

Finally, you will need to take into account the possibility of poor coverage in some areas. We all know how frustrating it is to lose a call. Imagine if you temporarily lost the signal to a critical application. One solution may include purchasing a larger antenna to see if that strengthens the signal. 

If this doesn’t resolve the problem, you might consider moving to satellite. We will discuss this option further in a future article. Until then, let us know if you have any questions or comments about using cellular networks with remote monitoring.

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