A few months ago, I listed Fluke’s CNX system of wirelessly connected multimeters, measurement modules, and thermal imaging cameras as one of my 5 favorite tools from 2013. The CNX system is based on wireless modules, a multimeter base station, and an optional USB adapter that allows for desktop and laptop viewing of real-time measurements.
In that post I offered a prediction:
It probably won’t be long until you can control a bunch of test meters from your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet.
Fluke has just announced their new line of Fluke Connect tools and accessories, which provide even greater interconnectivity and wireless measurement functionality. And, as predicted, there is a new Fluke Connect app for iOS and Android devices that takes everything to the next level.
Fluke Connect is a system that lets you share live measurements with your team and view all the data you need in the field.
Fluke Connect consist of more than 20 Fluke wireless test tools, including voltage, current, and temperature modules, Fluke Connect iOS and Android apps, and a Fluke Cloud-based storage system that helps pull everything together.
Fluke Connect Tools
- Digital Multimeters: 3000 FC series meters, 187, 189, 287, and 289 when used with IR3000 FC Connector
- Temperature (T3000 FC) Fluke Connect test module
- AC and DC voltage (V3000 FC, V3001 FC) Fluke Connect test modules
- Current (A3000 FC, A3001 FC, A3002 FC) Fluke Connect test modules
- Thermal Imagers: Ti100-series (with Fluke wireless SD card), Ti200/300/400 series thermal imaging cameras
- Vibration Meters: 805 FC (coming soon)
- Process Tools: 789 (with IR3000 FC connector)
- Insulation Resistance Testers: 1550 and 1555 (with IR3000 FC1550 connector)
Certain existing Fluke models can be retrofitted, such their 287 and 289 digital multimeters, and later on down the road, new tools might be re-engineered with built-in Fluke Connect functionality.
The IR3000FC adapter needed to retrofit compatible tools is priced at $40-$50.
Other current Fluke multimeters, like the 87V we recently reviewed, do not have datalogging or communication capabilities built-in, and so they cannot be retrofitted for Fluke Connect compatibility.
Smaller modules will connect to mobile devices via Bluetooth, and point-to-point WiFi is needed for the multimeters and other devices with larger files and data streams.
Pricing will be around the same as with the predecessor CNX meters and modules, or about $350 for the Fluke Connect meter and $150-250 for the meter module. Accessories to retrofit compatible meters will also soon be available.
Fluke Connect App
Fluke conducted a survey and found that smartphone was widespread among their customer base. Most users are equipped with personal or employer-supplied smart devices.
The Fluke Connect app, which is free to download and use, allows for easy real-time viewing of wireless test and measurement data in compatible iOS and Android devices. It can retrieve live readings at once from up to 10 Fluke Connect tools that are positioned up to 20 meters (65.6 feet) away.
Fluke Connect allows you to take multiple measurements simultaneously, and from a safe or convenient distance away from the testing location.
Smartphones (and tablets as well) can be used as simple readout devices, but the functionality goes beyond that. The Fluke Connect software can capture and save individual measurements, as well as trends over time.
Saved data can be tagged, flagged, compared against other saved measurements, and shared (through the Fluke Cloud) with other parties.
Fluke Connect was designed for iPhones 4s and newer running iOS 7 or higher, and Android phones such as the Galaxy S4, Nexus 5, and HTC One running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and up.
The iOS app is available now, and an Android version will be available this month.
I am told that a tablet version is in the works, and that there will also be software that works on desktop and laptop computers.
Fluke’s Cloud-based infrastructure allows users to connect with other remote team members. Through the Fluke Connect app, you can share measurements and visuals, and discuss problems as they arise.
Cloud data is cached to the phone, and datalogging can be done with or without internet access. This means that users can always collect new measurements or access measurement history in the field of industrial settings where cellular internet access might be spotty.
Why Should You Care?
If you use a $15 generic multimeter maybe once or twice a year, then these new products and capabilities probably won’t mean much to you. Fluke’s Connect tools, apps, and cloud-based data-sharing infrastructure will be most useful to electricians, field technicians, and industrial users.
Let’s say a tech encounters an unfamiliar issue in the field. Fluke Connect allows them to consult with a colleague or supervisor while they’re still on-site. The supervisor sees what they see and can help direct the tech about what to do next.
Or maybe in an industrial setting a tech is conducting routine maintenance or safety checks. Fluke Connect allows them to log the exact measurement without the need for a pen and paper.
Fluke is not the only test and measurement company to see the potential for device and smartphone connectivity. However, Fluke’s Connect tool lineup and system treats mobile devices in a different manner.
Flir’s ONE thermal imaging camera piggybacks onto an iPhone to make use of its processing power, display, and touch interface.
Agilent’s new BenchVue software allows for easier desktop and mobile control of benchtop equipment. I have encountered a few minor issues with their mobile BenchVue app, but for the most part I think they’re following a good path.
Flir’s ONE is a low-cost thermal imaging camera that requires supplementary hardware. Agilent’s software allows for mobile control of more sophisticated instruments. Fluke’s Connect platform, on the other hand, treats mobile devices as a way to enhance readout, reporting, and collaboration.
I think that there’s a lot of potential in the new Fluke Connect system of wireless tools and apps. Fluke’s CNX system was good, but Fluke Connect takes things even further in terms of convenience and connectivity. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but given what I’ve learned thus far, it looks like Fluke Connect will be great.