Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Multi-Parameter Meter Comparison Update - In-Situ SmarTroll


Multi-Parameter Meter Comparison Update - In-Situ SmarTroll
 
The ultimate promise of technology is to make us master of a world that we command by the push of a button.
-Volker Grassmuck

Some of you may recall, back in April of 2013 I wrote an article comparing many of the various multi-parameter meters on the market.  You can view that article here.  Well, at the end of that article, I mentioned my "thoughts and dreams" about what I would like to see in a good multi-meter in the future.  Shortly after that article was posted, I was sent a link to a webpage for a new meter that very closely resembled my "dream machine". The link took me to a webpage by In-Situ.  You can follow that link here.

If you will recall my favorite meter back in April 2013 was the AquaRead 900.  I still think it is a good meter and would still recommend it; however, I think the SmarTroll is now my new favorite meter and here is why. The SmarTroll is the smallest of the meters by a significant margin, even smaller than the AquaRead.  The flow cell comes in at less than 100ccs which can have a significant effect on reducing overall sampling time for some wells. It appears to be well-made sturdy meter. I've only used the SmarTroll on a few projects but they were big projects with lots of wells.  It performed very good with no issues.  The unit operates with the assistance of an iPod, iPhone or iPad, which is connected wirelessly to the probe. The software application that connects the device to probe can be downloaded from the Apple store however the device I used had it pre-installed on an iPod that came with the rental unit. The software is simple to use and data collected from the iPod device can be e-mailed at sample completion. The software is nice in that it can be easily programmed by the user for sampling frequency and stabilization parameters and will automatically color parameters that have stabilized as green and parameters that are not yet stabilized as red. It will then give an audible sound when all parameters have stabilized.

My only 2 complaints about the software are; 1) once you start the sampling process, it does not take the first reading until after the first time interval has been completed (e.g. if you set it to collect data every 5 minutes, it won't take the first reading for 5 minutes once you hit start). I would like to see it take an initial reading right away and then start sample at the selected frequency.  2) Once you have selected the sampling interval frequency, you can't change the frequency unless you start a whole new sampling process.  There are many occasions where sampling frequency may need to be adjusted due to drawdown and flow rate adjustments. It would be nice to adjust sampling frequency on the fly mid-sampling. These are simply software changes and are relatively simple to complete and update.    

Probably the biggest drawback of this meter is the lack of a turbidity sensor. If turbidity is a required parameter at your sites, and it is at most sites we sample, this can cause for a little extra work. Turbidity has to be measured using a second, non-connected turbidity meter. The iPod software allows for manual entry of turbidity data and calculates and color codes it just like the other parameters. Unfortunately this means you can't just set the meter and forget it. You have to manually measure and manually enter the turbidity reading at each time interval. This in practice is not as big an issue as one might think and it only slightly impacts my opinion of this meter, however having turbidity built in would complete my love of this meter.

Calibration and setup of the SmarTroll is easy and the technical and sales support staff at In-Situ is very good and helpful.  A new SmarTroll was quoted to me recently with, meter, cables, the iPod reader, flow cell and case for $4,300. This makes it tied as the least expensive and is currently the smallest meter and flow through cell on the market. Keep in mind you will also have to purchase a turbidity meter if that is a required parameter. As I mentioned this is my new favorite meter and we will be adding them to our inventory.  I'm not affiliated with In-Situ in any way other than as a customer. I'm simply offering you my experience, perspective and opinion.

-Russell

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