Industries that make use of this technology include aerospace, medicine, wastewater services, and industrial manufacturing.
Within these industries, operators of DAQ software and instruments use them for tasks like data measurement, monitoring, and recording. In addition to allowing manufacturers to read data, data acquisition systems allow them to test a wide variety of technical products and make informed process adjustments. Operators can use DAQ software to input data about virtually anything, from gas pressure to voltage.
Typical data acquisition software applications include flight data acquisition, structural dynamics test systems, local electronic data capture systems, and data collection via PC-based systems and chart recorders. Another common data acquisition application is the use of central web-based systems for clinical trial data, such as the collection of wastewater toxicity and treatment response data. In general, operators most often use data acquisition systems to conduct measurement and testing for field studies, research, and product troubleshooting.
Data acquisition systems have been around since the 1960s, when creators at IBM developed the first computer-hardware machines. They put out their first official data acquisition machine in 1963. They called it the IBM 7700 Data Acquisition System. Just one year later, they released the 1800 Data Acquisition and Control System. Unlike the IBM 7700, this system featured a component for disk storage.
The next innovation in data acquisition came in 1981, once again from IBM. It was that year that IBM released the first data acquisition system combined with PC (personal computer) technology. They called this new system the IBM Personal Computer and Scientific Solutions.
Since then, data acquisition systems have become much more advanced. Engineers continue to make them smaller, simpler, and much more powerful. Contemporary data acquisition systems are almost always electronic. They are also almost always designed to process multiple input channels at once. The data acquisition system market continues to grow every year.
How It Works
The process of data acquisition involves the sampling and converting of electrical or physical phenomenon or property into data and inputting the data into a computer. Examples of such phenomena and properties include voltage, current, sound, fluid flow, gas pressure, force, temperature, and light intensity.
Regardless of what the system is converting, all data acquisition systems follow the same basic procedure:
1. To begin, data acquisition sensors must gather the data.
2. After gathering the data, the sensors will output it on to signal conditioning circuitry, which converts the data into an analog input.
3. From there, analog-to-digital converters convert the analog signal data into a singular digital form.
4. Once the data has been converted into a singular form, the system inputs it into the software. From there, it can be accessed and controlled by data acquisition software programs that use a variety of programming languages, such a Pascal, Lisp, BASIC, C++, LabVIEW, and Java.
There are a variety of ways by which researchers may collect data. Two of the most common methods of data acquisition are personal computer (PC) data acquisition and universal serial bus (USB) data acquisition. Another major type of data acquisition system is the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
PC data acquisition is a term that covers all data acquisition systems and devices that require a connection to a host computer to properly download collected information and generally operate. Most data acquisition systems employ some sort of PC method.
USB data acquisition, the other common method of data acquisition, technically employs PC data acquisition, because the USB device works by plugging directly into a host computer. USB data acquisition, however, is still a method of its own. It uses the USB device, which is a serial bus that today is a staple for connecting and maintaining conversation between data acquisition devices and their host controllers, which are usually computers.
USB data acquisition systems feature many attractive characteristics, such as higher bandwidth (up to twelve megabytes per second) and the ability to provide power to peripheral devices. In addition, because USB devices are used as a power supply, they only need one cable in order to be linked to a computer, usually via a USB port.
SCADA systems are complex systems that use a myriad of devices and programming to control, handle, and command systems. With them, operators can oversee large multiple sites dispersed over long distances. However, experts are concerned that they can be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
To supervise and control processes, they use a mix of devices and software, including computer ports (serial ports, USB ports, parallel ports, etc.), graphical user interfaces, and networked data communications. To interface with machinery or process plants, SCADA systems can also use devices like discrete PID controllers or programmable logic controllers (PLC). To perform real-time calculates, they use remote terminal units (RTUs) and networked modules connected to actuators and sensors out on the field.
Three important components of data acquisition systems include sensors, signal conditioning circuitry, and analog-to-digital converters.
Sensors are essential to the function of these systems. These tools, which are technically transducers, detect and convert physical data into electrical signals.
Signal conditioning circuitry, also called signal conditioners, provide similar conversion services, but they work one step down the line by converting the signals provided by the sensors into a more digestible form that are easier to convert into digital values.
Analog-to-digital converters are also important to the function of data acquisition systems because they provide the final step of conversion; they fully convert the sensor signals after they have been partially converted by the signal conditioning circuitry.
In addition to these, data acquisition systems may be equipped with any number of supplementary tools or devices, such as data acquisition cards, data logger software, temperature recorders, and/or remote terminal units (RTUs).
Data acquisition cards may be defined as electronic hardware that works when it is physically plugged into a computer. (A small number of data acquisition cards are able to run independently.) This type of DAQ hardware serves as an interface between the sensor signal and a computer. DAQ cards often contain multiple system components to help them carry out their duties. Examples include RAM, ADC, high speed timers, multiplexers, and TTL-IO.
Data loggers, also known as data recorders, are any devices that are able to store data. Data logging equipment includes serial communication systems and plug-in boards. Note that while data loggers may be used as a part of a whole system, they are more often used by themselves, with or without a computer connection.
Temperature recorders are in fact a type of data logger, used specifically for the measurement of physical temperature. They can be powered by digital, analog, or mechanical means and after the data has been collected and converted, it is downloaded onto a computer. Here, it can be used to help meteorologists monitoring meteorological conditions, and aid different types of laboratory research.
Remote terminal units (RTUs) , also known as remote telecontrol units or remote telemetry units, interface physical objects and phenomena with SCADA systems or distributed control systems. Controlled by microprocessors, these electronic devices control connected objects by sending messages and telemetry data to and from the master system.
There are many reasons to love data acquisition systems. First, they help lower costs and increase productivity, no matter the industry or application. This is because they take in and interpret data with high levels of accuracy, and because they are simple, powerful, and flexible. Second, though they may have high initial costs and operators must generally complete training, they quickly return on their investment.
Another advantage of data acquisition systems is the fact that they have general purpose programming, as opposed to application or industry-specific programming. This is an advantage because it means that data acquisition processes (DAQ) can be used with a wide range of applications.
Design and Customization
Programmers design data acquisition systems based on your needs. They consider variables like the physical property or physical phenomena you plan to observe and measure, whether you want to integrate your new system into an existing system or not, your required sampling frequency, and the like.
To make a system work for you, they can vary in any number of ways. Examples of variations include sources and systems, DAQ hardware, type of DIO (digital input/output signal), DAQ input and output devices (e.g. whether your system will use differential inputs, single ended inputs, or both), bit resolution, etc. To learn more about how suppliers can make DAS solutions for your applications, reach out to a professional today.
Safety and Compliance Standards
A number of different organizations put out standard requirements and guidelines related to data acquisition systems. In the United States, examples include ANSI and IEEE. Also, the EPA has strict standards for any equipment used for environmental data measurement. Standard requirements and guidelines related to data acquisition measurement and control systems generally deal with factors like communication and accuracy.
To learn what standards to which your data acquisition measurement and control systems should adhere, talk to your industry leaders.
How to Choose the Right Manufacturer for You
If you are interested in acquiring DAQ software or using data acquisition system services, you need to connect with an experienced DAS service supplier. To help you find a high-quality partner, we have put together a list of several data acquisition system suppliers we trust. You will find their information by scrolling up towards the middle of this page.
Before you begin looking over the suppliers we have listed, we recommend you take some time to consider your application requirements and write them down. Think about what you need to measure, if you need to control it, etc. Also consider specifications like your budget, your timeline, applicable safety and compliance standards, your delivery preferences, and your post-delivery support preferences (installation assistance, training, etc.).
After you have written down all of these specifications, you will be ready to check out the suppliers we have listed on this page. Use your specifications list as a guide; compare and contrast what you are searching for with what each supplier offers. Pick out three or four suppliers that you are interested in, then reach out to customer service representatives from each. Using your list once again, this time as a conversation guide, discuss your application at length. After you have spoken with each of them, decide which service provider offers the right solutions for you. Remember, the right solutions rest not only on a price that works for you, but also the services and customer care that works for you. Once you have figured out which manufacturer provides these things, get started with them. Good luck!