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Building the Future of Data Collection

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: April 1st, 2014·3.7 min read·

In its simplest terms, data acquisition (or data logging, data collection or whatever particular parlance you prefer) is the act of capturing incoming signals for analysis. Modern embedded data acquisition (DAQ) computers are used to measure everything from the number of cars that pass over a given stretch of road, to flow rates and pressure levels in oil & gas pipelines.

But, building a successful data collection device is less about what’s being measured and more about how it will fit and function with the other components of a system. Today’s DAQ solutions are often only part of increasingly complex, interconnected mechanisms, making it vital to create devices with the capabilities to handle a huge number of potential responsibilities.

Here are just a few of the factors that go into the design and creation of today’s best data acquisition technologies.

Rugged, Flexible and Modular Construction

Because data collection systems are used in a wide range of applications, for purposes from simple number logging to tracking frequency, intensity and other more qualitative measurements, embedded data acquisition devices have to fit seamlessly into an overall infrastructure. Small, versatile solutions that can be mounted in a variety of positions and through various means make the job of integrating them into existing or evolving technologies much easier. A wonderfully built DAQ component that won’t fit into the enclosure of your overall product design or application framework isn’t of much use.

Because of this, many manufacturers are moving away from tradition PC components and instead opting for ventless, small form-factor, fanless PC designs tailored to operate as dedicated data loggers that can be accessed remotely. With multiple attachment points, rail mounting options and the ability to utilize solid state storage, the best modern DAQ solutions can truly go anywhere.

Open Communication

Every data acquisition application has its own unique set of measurement sources that need to be accessed and accounted for, and there’s no end to the potential connectivity needs. As such, the best DAQ solutions will offer a range of various I/O options and the flexibility to effectively log a wide variety of incoming data, as well as present it to users in an easily accessible way. Innovations like cloud storage have made it increasingly important to create DAQ systems that are able to easily communicate across multiple platforms and deliver recorded data to users wherever they are. WiFi and even Bluetooth capability, as well as reliable  communication across multiple platforms, are key components for modern DAQ hardware.

DAQ Durability And Reliability

Due to the nature of their utilization, DAQ systems may need to function in situations where traditional computing technologies would struggle to perform. Common environmental challenges for embedded data acquisition tools include dust, moisture and temperature, making fully enclosed, rugged systems the modern go-to option. Having the capability to operate in a wide temperature range, as well as reliably perform without the need for regular maintenance, drastically enhance the usability and value of the newest wave of DAQ hardware. In many instances deviation from the precise regulatory requirements on data collection systems, especially in the oil & gas industry, can result in fines or even shutdowns. These new fanless, fully-enclosed and ultra-reliable systems offer a “set it and forget it” solution that require very little power and even less maintenance.

So, How Do You Decide Between Data Collection Options?

Selecting the right data acquisition hardware involves fully understanding the following:

  • What are the physical needs of your system?
    • How much storage and/or processing is required?
    • What are the mounting options/needs?
  • Where will the system be implemented?
    • What are the environmental concerns?
    • What temperature range will it need to operate in?
  • How will data be accessed?
    • Will the DAQ system be fully embedded or installed in a remote location?
    • Is wireless communication a requirement?

Fortunately, there is a modern DAQ option for nearly any application imaginable, it just takes a bit of knowhow to help thin the list. If you’re struggling to configure a DAQ solution that addresses your specific needs, one of our Sales Engineers would be happy to help you determine the best fit.

We Would Love To Hear From You!

What qualities of a modern Data Acquisition System are you most concerned about? Do you have a unique application that makes reliable data collection a challenge? Tell us about it in the comments!

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About the Author: Darek Fanton

Darek is the Communications Manager at OnLogic. His passion for both journalism and technology has led him from the newsrooms of local papers to the manufacturing floor of IBM. His background in news gathering has him always on the lookout for the latest in emerging tech and the best ways to share that information with readers. In addition to his affinity for words, Darek is a music lover, juggler and huge fan of terrible jokes.
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