Low-Cost Temperature Sensors Are Custom Designed for New Applications   Rebecca Carnes


Demand for 1-wire sensors is growing in a number of expanding markets

Adam VanOort, president of DataNab, is in the business of delivering solutions. And with a recently expanded line of 1-wire sensors, the company is offering added solutions to customers—including OEMS like Honeywell—by providing additional low-cost options for temperature monitoring and control applications.

DataNab (www.datanab.com), based in Mantorville, Minnesota, provides low-cost, IP-enabled solutions for audio distribution, process controls, energy management, building automation, remote monitoring, data acquisition, security and access control, and other related applications. The company is targeting its 1-wire products to OEM manufacturers, systems integrators, businesses, and end users that require low-cost, embedded control or monitoring solutions in temperature-related applications. This includes HVAC and refrigeration, as well as solar, geothermal, and other alternative energy systems that use multiple temperature sensors to monitor and track system performance.

The sensors, ranging in cost from $8 to $25, are also attractive to customers because multiple sensors can be put on a single network.  “This saves customers a lot of money because they use less cable. It also saves on installation time because now they just run a single cable out and drop sensors off of that wherever they are needed,” VanOort said.

Newly designed sensors include a $10 inline, potted, digital temperature sensor that’s embedded and potted into the end of a one-meter jacketed cable. This design can be used in almost any type of temperature measurement application, including harsh environments and direct contact with liquids. The stainless steel digital temperature probe, at $14, is suited for sensing liquid temperature in pipes. This probe is about one inch in length, with a diameter of six millimeters. The flush-mount room temperature sensor, at $22, features a plastic-threaded case, screws directly into drywall, and can be painted over to become virtually invisible. The fourth new 1-wire sensor design is sequenced so that the controller can detect them in the order they’re wired.

“With the 1-wire sensors, there’s always new designs that people are asking for,” VanOort said, explaining that many small to mid-size businesses are looking to come up with low-cost solutions for new markets like alternative energy and are interested in 1-wire temperature sensors. “OEMs see that we’re offering these sensors and then come to us and say they have a need for a sensor that is built a certain way and that can be tied into the devices that they are selling, and usually we’ll be able to design and provide that sensor for them.”

One expanding market is GPS fleet tracking and fleet management, which utilize embedded controllers that support 1-wire sensors. “These GPS devices are all built on embedded micro controllers, and so they have the ability to support 1-wire sensors. Now instead of just tracking fleet, they’re also able to offer temperature monitoring services. So if they’re transporting food or anything temperature-critical, or even monitoring the temperature of a truck engine, they can do it all through the GPS device because it supports 1-wire,” VanOort said, adding that demand is growing. “So I think as more and more intelligent controllers and devices are built using these little embedded devices—micro controllers and things like that—I think that one-wire sensors will continue to become more popular because it’s an easy add-on that enables businesses to offer an additional service for value to their customers.”

The sensors are kept affordable because the designs are “simple and functional,” according to VanOort. DataNab designs just what its customer needs.  “We order large quantities of the materials and the chips, and we manufacture the sensors in bulk so we’re able to keep our costs down. We focus on just the quality of the sensor, making sure the design is what the customer needs—nothing more, nothing less. And the fact that these sensors are so reliable means that support costs are low and we’re able to keep the overall price down.”

The unique design of 1-wire sensors allow them to communicate to a controller over a single-cable network in a daisy-chain fashion. This provides a more efficient alternative to traditional solutions that require a dedicated “home-run” cable to the controller from each sensor, eliminating the need for multiple wires and multiple A/D input connections.

“There are a large number of small businesses today that want to offer affordable systems to monitor and control solar, geothermal, and other green alternative energy systems,” said VanOort. “1-wire technology is supported by open and low-cost embedded controllers that perform well and provide alternatives to expensive, proprietary control systems. DataNab has enhanced the value proposition by providing 1-wire technology in innovative designs that apply to more markets. This makes it more affordable for small businesses to provide systems that are necessary in modern temperature-control applications.”

There is particular interest from alternative energy companies trying to develop their own temperature monitoring and control systems. “They are looking for low-cost solutions for newer alternative energy systems that maybe didn’t exist ten or twenty years ago, and, as a result, there aren’t any conventional options available that are affordable. So they’re creating their own solutions, and since our 1-wire sensors are affordable and can be integrated with open and low-cost embedded controllers, many of those companies are finding us and liking what we have to offer,” he said.


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