DAQ Actually

Lilly Northrop, our in-house Data Acquisition expert, welcomes you to the world of DAQ in her first post for Adept Scientific.

Whether we realise it or not, there’s one thing that is all around us, day in, day out, wherever we look. No, I’m not talking about coffee shops; I’m talking about Data Acquisition. Take a look around – most of us use a PC at work, have an oven at home and let’s not forget those mobile phones. Where information is gathered, Data Acquisition isn’t far behind.

Whilst true, the underlying reason for DAQ is to gather information; go beyond just the measurement and Data Acquisition can be so much more. Yes, measurements are taken and sensors are wired in to the system, but looking at a DAQ system as a whole goes beyond just the speed of the board and how many channels it has. The options now available read like a ‘who’s who’ of connectivity and measurement types: PCI or USB? Standalone logging or pure acquisition? Real-Time or not to Real-Time? These are the questions.

Strip away the details – such as channel count and speeds – and the essential components of a DAQ system can be seen as the sensors, data acquisition hardware and a processor, complete with configuration or development software (of course, there are variations on this, depending on the application).

What comes first: sensors or the DAQ board? DAQ board or the software? If starting from scratch, the first question should be: what is being measured? Once we know this, we need some way to get this measurement into our DAQ system.

This is where our sensors come into play. Sensors will do the job of converting the physical measurements into a form that our DAQ system can interpret (usually voltage or current). Based on the sensors, the right DAQ board can then be added into the equation. Our DAQ board will bring the measurements into our PC, and the choices available for DAQ solutions means no connection method is too obscure, and (almost) no speed too fast!

From low-cost USB solutions (such as the USB-1208 from MCC), stand-alone data loggers (the LogMessage from Delphin) to a Real-Time modular chassis solution (the Pro II from ADwin), the possibilities are almost endless.

As for software – the final component in our system – most DAQ boards nowadays are supported under the most common languages, whether text-based or graphical, and if programming doesn’t appeal, there are still software options which allow the viewing and logging of data, giving you a complete, out-of-the-box solution.

Welcome to the world of data acquisition! Stay, make yourselves comfortable; we’ve got a lot to share with you….


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