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Data Acquisition and Data Acquisition Systems Explained

2019-05-11 09:16:33

Data Acquisition and Data Acquisition Systems Explained - Expert Coders

From time to time you will need a way to measure and manipulate several real world conditions around you. While you may not, as a person, have control over these conditions, you will need a way to manipulate or control these conditions to your liking. For example, you personally do not have the power to make a hot room cold but with the use of certain systems like an air conditioning unit (or system) you can change the temperature of the room to something more suitable for you.

Sometimes you may need to ensure that a certain condition remains at a specific measure because at that measure of the condition, certain other things are supposed to happen. For this you will need a way to measure the condition and know if it’s above, below or on the specific measurement. In these and many more occasions you will need a data acquisition system. You may even be sampling the same or a range of conditions over a wide geography for research purposes. At times like these you need to be able to acquire data for your research purposes.


So, what is Data Acquisition?

Data acquisition is a process in which conditions in the real world are sampled in the form of signals which are then converted into digital values for manipulation on a computer.

A simple explanation of this would be that a data acquisition system is brought in to measure the temperature of your room. The real world condition being sampled here is a measure of the degree of hotness or coldness. The data acquisition system (normally abbreviated as DAQ or DAS) measures the degree of hotness or coldness in the room and converts the resulting temperature into an analog value which the system further converts to a digital value you can monitor, control and manipulate on your computer’s screen.


Data Acquisition Systems

A data acquisition system is a collection of software and hardware that allows one to measure or control physical properties or characteristics of something in the real world. It is an information system that gathers, stores, and sends out or distributes data or information. They are made use of in commercial and industrial electronics, and also scientific and environmental equipment designed to be used in capturing electrical signals and/or environmental conditions on a PC or any other computer. 

A DAQ system that is complete includes data acquisition hardware, a computer in which is running a data acquisition software, signal conditioning hardware and actuators and sensors. A data acquisition System that is a stand-alone is called a data logger.

In some cases, the DAQ system, together with the hardware components, may come with a specialized Data Acquisition Software. In some other cases, the DAQ system may come without this software. In this case you will then need to buy one or have one custom made for you. Even when the Data Acquisition System comes with specialized software, you may still need to customize it for you specific needs. The software is essential because the Data Acquisition applications are managed and controlled by a software program. This program may be developed using any of the several all purpose programming languages which include but are not limited to Lisp, Pascal, Python, Java, LabVIEW, C#, C++, C, FORTRAN, BASIC, Assembly and many more.

No matter what the specific use of your data acquisition system is, you can have a custom-made software built for you here at

One important real life application of Data Acquisition systems is in configuring of smart homes or smart offices or smart anything (you fill in the blank). In a smart home, for example, one may want that anytime he claps his hands, the lights will go off or come on. A DAQ system is employed to recognize or measure this sound. The DAQ process then takes place and triggers a reaction that ends in the lights going off or coming on.

Components of a Data Acquisition System

The basic/major components of data acquisition systems include:

-          Data Acquisition Hardware: Interfacing between the signal and a PC is the job of the data acquisition hardware. The data acquisition hardware generally takes several forms and could be one or more of these forms: It could be in the form of cards which one connects to the card slots in the motherboard of a computer (examples include PCI, PCI-E, MCA, ISA, AppleBus, S-100 bus etc) or in the form of a modules which the user connects to the ports on a computer (examples USB, serial, parallel etc). In many cases an external breakout box will be required. This is because the space on the PCI’s back is usually too small to accommodate all the necessary connections to be made.

-          Sensors: The sensors are responsible for converting the physical properties or parameters into electronic signals.

-          A Circuitry for Conditioning Signals: known as the signal conditioning circuitry, this circuitry is responsible for converting the signals from the sensors into a type of signal that can, in turn, be transformed into digital values or values that are readable by the DAQ software.

-          Analog-to-Digital converters: the work of the analog-to-digital converters is the conversion of the conditioned sensor signals to digitized or digital value.

Besides the main components listed above, a data acquisition system may also be equipped with any number of several other devices for customized or specialized functions. These tools or equipment may include Remote Terminal Units (or RTUs), Temperature Recorders, Data Recorders/Loggers, and Data acquisition cards.


The Role and importance of the DAQ software in the DAQ process or system

Besides managing and controlling the DAQ applications as stated above, the Data acquisition software is essentially required for a PC to work with the DAQ hardware. The device drivers expose a standard API that is used for developing applications while at the same time performing low –level reads and writes on the hardware. An example of a standard API that is used is COMEDI. This API acts as a user interface for the DAQ Processor, while also letting a particular user application run on several operating systems and providing graphing and disk logging capabilities. With an API such as COMEDI, a user application that runs on Linux operating system will also run on a Windows operating system.


The Data Acquisition Process – How It Works

The summary of the data acquisition process is this: a physical or electrical property or characteristics is captured. This property is then converted into data which is then inputted into a computer. Some examples of the kinds of properties or characteristics include light intensity, temperature, force, gas pressure, flow of fluids, sound, current, and voltage.

The basic procedure that all data acquisition systems follow is the same, irrespective of the physical or electronic property being converted by the system. And it is as follows:

1.       First, there are sensors and these sensors have to gather the target data.

2.       When the sensors are through gathering the data, they then output the data onto a signal conditioning circuitry. It is this circuitry that is responsible for converting the data into an analog input.

3.       When the conversion into analog input is complete, the analog signal data is then converted by analog-to-digital converters into a singular digital form.

4.       After the completion of the last step – the conversion of the analog signal into singular data form – it is then inputted into the data acquisition software. Once inputted into the DAQ software, the data can then be controlled by and is also accessible by the DAQ software programs which make use of any of the all-purpose programming languages. Examples of these languages as stated above include Java, Python, LabVIEW, C++, C, C#, BASIC, FORTRAN, Lisp, and Pascal.


There are so many instances for which you will need data acquisition systems installed. (A look at the types of real-world conditions to be measured as stated above will tell you this.) You may or may not be using them in your line of work currently. If you do, you already know the importance of DAQ systems. If you do not currently use them in your line of work, you may want to find out what these systems can do for you in an age where data is gold. Sure, not all lines of work require a sophisticated data acquisition system but if yours does, get one immediately. It can save you a lot.

Some of these data acquisition systems come with a specialized data acquisition software with which you can access, read or control values on a computer but some don’t. When they do not come with a Data Acquisition Software or you need a custom data acquisition software built for you, remember that we at have all the necessary expertise, experience and technical know-how to build a great DAQ software for you.

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