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Data collection of environmental phenomena has traditionally been a very manual process. Even the advent of electronic data logging instruments has not significantly reduced the workload for managing instruments in the field. Recently however, low-cost microcontroller systems with wireless connectivity, called wireless sensor networks (WSNs) have been developed. With the proliferation of low-cost sensing elements, WSNs should be transforming environmental monitoring, but certain shortcomings in the current WSN paradigm have conspired against widespread field deployment. These are: battery capacity limitations; specialised wireless protocols that exclude WSNs from direct integration into existing data networks; and closed rather than open and extensible designs. In this work we investigate the effectiveness of a new paradigm for remote data collection systems; employing alternative power sources to significantly extend the service interval, WiFi wireless communications to simplify remote management, and open-sourced design to enable customisation and extensibility. We conduct a direct in situ comparison of WiFi and similar ZigBee radios, evaluating signal range and battery utilization under various sensor and radio configurations.