The world of test and measurement is vast, there are a lot of product and software options available, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages. To help you in your research, this article provides a list of other options you have in addition to our products.
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Our mission is to help you understand how the world moves. We aim to combine convenience, quality, and helpfulness to offer you the most efficient experience possible. But mission statements and values only go so far, most of you are engineers and you want to see the hard data! Here are some of our major differentiators over our competitors:
- More data - Our competitors measure their storage capacity in millions of samples. We measure it in billions because we know that provides a more in-depth and accurate representation of your test environment.
- More sensors - All our recorders include a host of common sensors such as temperature, pressure, humidity, light, and IMU. They all also include multiple accelerometers to provide a more dynamic measurement range. Here is more information on our sensor specifications.
- Better sensors - We select the best embedded sensors we can find to design into our recorders. Everyone else just uses the very low-cost variable capacitance MEMS accelerometers. We have piezoelectric and piezoresistive accelerometer options. Here is more information on our sensor specifications.
- Custom configuration - Our firmware allows the user to change sample rates of sensors, enable/disable certain sensors, adjust filter frequencies, and utilize triggering to save storage, battery, and post-processing needs. Here are two articles on measurement settings and triggers.
- Advanced software - We offer two free software packages to meet the variety of analysis needs of our customers. The Lab software excels at providing a quick overview of your test while the Analyzer enables deeper analysis options. Both export data to CSV to MATLAB for additional analysis. We are committed to continually improving these software packages and encourage you to download the free software along with some example recordings to try out.
For more on our differentiators and for a snapshot of our customer base, visit the article: Why enDAQ?
Below is a list of various competitors with some benefits and drawbacks of using their products over ours. We are not always the right choice for every application, so hopefully, this information can be helpful as you look to evaluate the many options! The price range provided are for similar products/systems to our own - a recording system with at least three (3) accelerometer channels. There are only a handful of direct competitors, but then an expanded list that has some overlap. The table is in order of relevance, there are internal anchor links to the brief discussion below on each competitor. The header title of the competitor is an outside link to their website.
|MSR||$500 to $2,000||Wide range of options, many sensors||Limited sample rate and storage capacity. Modest sensor performance (noise, resolution, bandwidth) characteristics. Longer lead times.|
| Convergence Instruments
||$300 to $600||Affordable, good accelerometer performance||No additional sensors, limited storage capacity.|
||$5,000 to $11,000||High-quality accelerometers, great for shock testing||Very high cost, no e-Commerce to buy online.|
| National Instruments
||$5,000 to $10,000||Highly capable and customizable||Not very portable, time-consuming setup, expensive full-system cost|
||<$500||Cost effective in volume||A lot of up-front investment needed, reliability will be suspect|
||$1,000 to $4,000||Quick snap-shot of vibration environment||Not much "depth" to the data, not meant for long-term testing|
||$3,000 to $5,000||Shipment tracking with semi-real-time feedback||Limited data quality and "depth," better suited for knowing an event occurred - not necessarily the details of the event|
||$1,000 to $15,000||Shipment tracking and longer term event monitoring, GPS||MB of storage, pretty large, espensive|
| Dytran's VibraCorder
||$1,000 to $3,000||Includes a gyroscope||Made by a traditional accelerometer company, limited capabilities with firmware and software design|
||$1,400||Phone app, good storage||Only variable capacitance accelerometer, no additional sensors|
| Gulf Coast Data Concepts
||<$200||Super cheap||Limited data quality, software, and support|
||$600 to $1,000||Robust, affordable, large battery||Large size, limited data quality|
||$500 to $1,300||Specifically for shipment tracking||Just measures peak acceleration levels, limited data quality, large|
| Instrumented Sensor Technology
||>$5,000||Robust design||Large size, high cost, limited data quality|
||$400 to $800||Condition monitoring||Not applicable to applications without wireless access|
||$1,000 to $4,000||Condition monitoring||Not applicable to applications without wireless access|
||>$10,000||Robust, portable data acquisition||No sensors included|
||>$10,000||Robust, portable data acquisition||No sensors included|
MSR is definitely our most direct competitor. We really like their wide range of product offerings and the fact that most of their products have a bunch of other sensor options like ours. We also like their lower-cost event-based recorders, their Bluetooth units, units with a LED screen, and recorders with analog/external inputs. All of these are things we have planned too to more directly address the larger market need. Their wide range of product offerings and customization can be a detriment though because every unit is made to order and they utilize distributors. This means that your typical lead time will be between 2 and 6 weeks.
Areas we compete are namely on the sensor performance standpoint. The embedded accelerometers, sample rates, and storage capacity all significantly outperform MSR. We measure our storage capacity in GB they specify it in terms of "millions of samples" which is on the order of MB of storage. Their accelerometers are all digital variable capacitance accelerometers which have a limited bandwidth (<500 BW, max sampling at 3,200 Hz). Our software is also more user-friendly, especially to the higher-end technical customers.
We often recommend these products to users who are on a budget yet need decent vibration and shock data. But like MSR, their accelerometers are only the digital variable capacitance accelerometers so they have a bandwidth up to about 500 Hz and a maximum sampling rate of 4,000 Hz. They also do not have any additional sensors, just the one triaxial accelerometer. That being said, we also do like the event-based metrics that they record which include RMS and velocity. Clearly, their founder knows a thing or two about shock and vibe and that peak levels aren't enough!
These are high-end shock recording systems that are primarily marketed to the automobile crash testing market. They have wide range accelerometers (500g), high resolution (16-bit), fast sampling (20,000 Hz) and a rugged enclosure - all of which our products meet or beat. Another limiting factor is just how expensive they are, prohibitively high for many customers. DTS really starts to shine when you have a need for multiple external sensors all wired together. Their data acquisition sys tems are much more portable and rugged compared to traditional systems like National Instruments.
National Instruments isn't necessarily a direct competitor in that they don't make embedded recording systems with all sensors integrated. But they definitely are the "big boys" in the industry and the most recognized company on this list within test and measurement. We here at Mide frequently utilize National Instruments for large complicated tests in our labs, especially when they require a closed-loop feedback system. Their hardware enables very precise measurement at very high sampling rates and the software is basically their own block-programming language called LabVIEW. But all this capability comes at a cost in the hardware (>$2,000 for DAQ), software (starting at $3,000 per license), and time - these take some serious understanding of what you're doing to set these up. At Mide, we have a handful of resident test and measurement guys that spend a significant amount of time setting up great test systems, but these systems take weeks. Lastly, these systems are not portable whatsoever. All that hardware doesn't include the wired sensors (wires everywhere) and it also doesn't include the electronics to log and save the data which is typically a laptop. I wouldn't recommend folks sending out a National Instruments based system into the field for days or weeks, especially harsh environments. These work best for lab testing.
We are freely and happily providing the sensors and other core components we use to you and competitors. We also give away the enclosure design, the board design and our software is free. There isn't much-stopping folks from trying to build up their own recording system using an Ada fruit, Arduino, SparkFun, Raspberry Pi kit and sensors off the shelf. Such a system will likely have a hardware cost less than $500 including any enclosure you design and make. To a well-versed programmer, this may seem like a good path forward and that may be true if they are developing their own long-term product/system! But there are some notable issues:
- Firmware to handle multiple sensors with different sample rates
- Applying calibration
- Ensuring survivability in your environment
- Time (and cost) to design and develop this system
Mide, and other competitors on this list, has invested millions of dollars into our firmware and software over the years. This cost isn't explicitly clear when looking at the BOM but it was, and continues to be, a significant investment! We wouldn't recommend trying to make your own system unless you had plans to make 100s of them yourself. A one-off can surely not be cost effective.
Fluke make equipment specifically for the manufacturing market. So these systems are great for quickly characterizing whether a machine is operating correctly and what components of it may be failing. They do a great job at that go/no-go test but they aren't well suited for applications where the user wants a lot of raw data to do their own analysis and/or if they are looking to record an event or test that lasts longer than several seconds. While our products are great for a variety of applications, Fluke is best for failure analysis or condition monitoring - not much else. We will be developing future products and software with more capabilities in these areas so we may find ourselves competing more directly soon.
Formerly ShockWatch, this group has largely focused on shipment monitoring. They have some lower-cost stickers that go on the side of boxes to signify when events outside their range occurred which are pretty clever. And then they have some digital products too meant for recording shipments. They had originally outsourced this development because they didn't have the electrical and software engineering experience but have recently started to invest more heavily in this space. They are starting to try and get into more generic vibration condition monitoring, leveraging their cloud-based shipping loggers. The products are definitely worth checking out for shipment tracking, but the focus more on "peak g levels" not necessarily on some of the finer details of what actually happened in the test. Keep in mind their recorders start at $3K and go up to $6K.
This group has some pretty capable devices in terms of sensor quality and sample rate. All their models appear to have piezoelectric sensors with sample rates from 2,500 Hz scaling up to 10,000 Hz for the high end. Their higher end model has a GPS option and even 6 programmable external channels. They have robust triggering options and battery options. Our differentiator, like almost everyone on this list, again comes down to the storage capacity, size, and cost. They measure the storage in MB, we have 1,000 times the storage measured in billions of samples (GBs of data). Their higher-end models cost over $10,000 while we are firmly in the low thousands. And we have smaller sizes. Their software is better at event detection and classification than ours, however, but something we are now working on.
We really like Dytran's website and sensor products. They do a great job at providing a range of different traditional wired-accelerometers and doing so in a usable manner. It's also refreshing that you can buy the accelerometer online! Over the years they must have received requests for the type of products we offer: fully embedded and standalone devices that are easy to use. Their recorder is like many on the list when compared to ours, it has a reduced sample rate (4 kHz), limited measurement range (16g) and it only has a variable capacitance accelerometer. They are the only one on the list (besides us and DTS) that include a gyroscope in the device, but they don't have many other sensors. We think pretty objectively our software is easier to use and more capable, but we'll leave that up to you!
Micromega has a line of recorders called RecoVib that are available on Amazon. They also make some more generic DAQ systems for portable measurement in the field. They seem to be capable devices in that application space where a 16g variable capacitance is all you need. They are based in Belgium which can be helpful for some European customers and customs. Overall we feel that the Slam Stick C does directly meet and beat this RecoVib in every measure except size, their product is slightly smaller although we are developing a smaller version.
These products remind us of our original Slam Stick that was released in 2010 and we sold for only $250. That product resembled very closely what Gulf Cost Data Concepts has which is a very bare simple board snapped into place in a USB stick enclosure. These are incredibly cost-effective but that reduced cost comes at a more abstract cost. There was minimal if any assembly and quality tests before shipping products out. Sensors chosen were also on the cheaper end. And to save costs we had to have a bare-bones software and support team which is what Gulf Coast appear to do as well. We discontinued our own similar product after realizing that the revenue we were generating (~$50K a year) wasn't worth the continued investment, especially when we had a better product line that was growing very quickly. With this in mind, we wouldn't recommend these products to folks that want to establish any long-term relationship and where quality is a primary concern. But if you are doing a one-off test and don't really care too much on quality because cost is a larger concern - these products may be for you!
MadgeTech makes a bunch of data logger products and they have a few shock recorders. But like many on this list, their recorders have deficiencies concerning data quality and sensor options. These recorders are also huge at 5 pounds! They are robust and include a large battery but they are only really useful for recording some events, not getting much detail on the specifics of an environment. We also aren't big fans of how Omega white labels MadgeTech and resells their recorders.
IOG has a variety of products in the shipment tracking application space. Like SpotSee, they ventured into digital recorders and are looking to expand that market but they focus solely on "peak g-force" (remember g is a unit of acceleration, you need mass to know the force). Their products are definitely useful for knowing when an "event" occurred but shouldn't be relied upon for high-fidelity data needed to influence your product design.
These products are built like black-box recorders so they appear very robust. They include some high-end piezoresistive accelerometers which are great and even allow for external input of piezoelectric accelerometers. But they are quite large, and frankly look like a little archaic. They don't list the pricing on the website but we have heard their cheapest products start at a $5,000 price point.
They focus solely on condition monitoring which makes them an excellent option if that is your application. We like a lot of things they do which include some decent accelerometer options, a clean cloud interface, and different sensor input options. They do have a service fee of at least $1,000/month for the cloud software which appears to be the only way to access the data. So they are great for that application, but wouldn't be advised for tests that don't need real-time monitoring.
Like PetaSense, MicroStrain is focusing on the condition monitoring space. They do a great job with a variety of "nodes" that have either embedded sensors and/or external inputs. Like PetaSense, these products aren't great if you aren't doing condition monitoring because they have a monthly cloud software fee. But if condition monitoring is what you're after these are definitely worth a look.
They make some pretty high-quality data acquisition systems that are specifically designed for portability and ruggedness. But they won't include any sensors and are expensive, but they have good performance characteristics.
HBM makes a lot of sensors and has some data acquisition systems to support those sensors. Like Oros, these are centered on being robust and portable but don't include any sensors and typically in excess of $10,000.