In its simplest terms, data acquisition (also called data logging or data collection and sometimes shortened to DAQ) is the act of capturing incoming signals for analysis. An embedded data acquisition computer is 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 DAQ 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 one part of increasingly complex, interconnected mechanisms, making it vital to have access to hardware devices with the capabilities to handle a huge number of potential responsibilities.
With so many different types of data loggers, it’s important to choose the hardware that best suits your application. In this article, we’ll go through a few of the factors that go into the design and creation of today’s data acquisition technologies and how to choose the best data collection hardware based on your unique applications.
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 traditional PC components and instead opting for 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.
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 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. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth capability, and reliable communication across multiple platforms, both modern and legacy, are all 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 systems 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 enhances 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 fanless, fully-enclosed, and ultra-reliable systems offer a “set it and forget it” solution that requires very little power and even less maintenance.
How do you decide between data collection options?
Selecting the right data collection 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?
- What are your display needs?
Fortunately, there is a modern DAQ option for nearly any application imaginable, it just takes a bit of know-how to help thin the list. If you’re struggling to configure a DAQ solution that addresses your specific needs, contact one of our Sales Engineers for help with determining the best fit.