What is the SDI-12 Support Group?

The SDI-12 Support Group is a non-profit corporation. We provide all interested parties with the SDI-12 Specification and other information, as appropriate, about SDI-12. We also publish the SDI-12 Specification and upgrade it when changes are needed.

The SDI-12 Support Group is exempt from federal income taxes under section 501(a) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. The corporation is registered in Utah (USA).

Please join the SDI-12 Support Group.

What is SDI-12?

SDI-12 stands for serial data interface at 1200 baud. It is a standard to interface battery powered data recorders with micro-processor based sensors designed for environmental data acquisition (EDA).

EDA is accomplished by means of a sensor, or sensors, and a data recorder which collects and saves the data. SDI-12 is a standard communications protocol which provides a means to transfer measurements taken by an intelligent sensor to a data recorder. An intelligent sensor typically takes a measurement, makes computations based on the raw sensor reading, and outputs the measured data in engineering units. For example, an SDI-12 pressure sensor may take a series of pressure measurements, average them, and then output pressure in psi, inches of mercury, bars, millibars, or torrs. The sensor's micro-processor makes the computations, converts sensor readings into the appropriate units, and uses the SDI-12 protocol to transfer data to the recorder.

What requirements make SDI-12 particularly useful?

SDI-12 is used in applications with the following requirements:

  • battery powered operation with minimal current drain
  • use of one data recorder with multiple sensors on a single cable
  • use with microprocessor-based sensors that perform complex calibration algorithms or make internal computations

These requirements are necessary to acquire hydrologic data at remote sites. Most sites use battery powered data recorders to operate for long and unattended periods of time.

Why use micro-processor based sensors anyway?

A micro-processor in the sensor may calibrate the sensor, control sensor measurements, and convert raw sensor readings into engineering units. The micro-processor also controls the SDI-12 interface. It accepts and decodes instructions received from the data recorder, starts the measurements, controls all timing, and uses the SDI-12 protocol to communicate with the data recorder.

Can more than one sensor be connected to a single data recorder?

Yes. SDI-12 is a multi-drop interface that can communicate with multi-parameter sensors. Multi-drop means that more than one SDI-12 sensor can be connected to a data recorder. The SDI-12 bus is capable of having ten sensors connected to it. Having more than ten sensors, however, is possible. Some SDI-12 users connect more than ten sensors to a single data recorder.

Can a sensor take more than one measurement?

Multi-parameter means that a single sensor may return more than one measurement. For example, some water quality sensors return temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and depth.

What advantages does SDI-12 have for environmental data collection?

A serial-digital interface is a logical choice for interfacing microprocessor-based sensors with a data recorder. This has advantages for sensors and data recorders.

  • Unique and complex self calibration algorithms can be done in microprocessor-based sensors.
  • Sensors can be interchanged without reprogramming the data recorder with calibration or other information.
  • Power is supplied to sensors through the interface.
  • Hybrid circuit and surface mount technologies make it practical to include the power supply regulator, a microprocessor, and other needed circuitry in small sensor packages.
  • Sensors can use low cost EEPROMs (electrically erasable programmable read only memory) for calibration coefficients and other information instead of internal trimming operations.
  • The use of a standard serial interface eliminates significant complexity in the design of data recorders.
  • Data recorders can be designed and produced independently of future sensor development.
  • SDI-12 data recorders interface with a variety of sensors.
  • SDI-12 sensors interface with a variety of data recorders.
  • Personnel trained in SDI-12 will have skills to work with a variety of SDI-12 data recorders and SDI-12 sensors.
In what applications are SDI-12 devices used?

SDI-12 is used in water resource research and management, industry, government, and agriculture. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey uses over 4000 SDI-12 sensors in its data collection networks.

SDI-12 sensors are available that measure the following:
  • bridge scour
  • conductivity
  • dissolved oxygen
  • distance
  • groundwater level
  • petroleum hydrocarbons in water
  • pH
  • pressure
  • redox (ORP)
  • tank level
  • temperature
  • tide and sea state
  • turbidity
  • water velocity
  • weight of snow and ice on a snow pillow
  • and much more ...