Data Acquisition System
Instrumentation and Control Engineering
Department of Electrical Engineering
Institute of Technology, Nirma University
Abstract— The paper givesinformation about data acquisiton systems.It describes the various components
of the system and their working. The paper also discusses the applications of data acquisition system, its
advantages and disadvantages. A simple Arduino based data acqiusition system using labview has been
Index Terms—Acquisition, hardware, software, sensors, interface.
Data acquisition is the process of sampling signals that measure real world physical conditions and
converting the resulting samples into digital numeric values that can be manipulated by a computer. Data
acquisition systems (abbreviated with the acronym DAS or DAQ) typically measures an electrical or
physical phenomenon such as voltage, current, temperature, pressure, or sound and converts the analog
waveforms into digital values for processing and analysis with the help of computer. Stand alone data
acquisition systems are called data loggers.
A DAQ system consists of sensors, DAQ measurement hardware, and a computer with programmable
software. Compared to traditional measurement systems, PC-based DAQ systems exploit the processing
power, productivity, display, and connectivity capabilities of industry-standard computers providing a
more powerful, flexible, and cost-effective measurement solution. Also a digital signal can be stored in
volatile (RAM) or permanent (magnetic) memory from where it can be reproduced error-free or can be
imported into a computer for manipulation and analysis. A Data Acquisition System is comprised of three
parts; an I/O sub-system, a host computer and the controlling software. Hence these systems are often
referred to as embedded DAQ systems.
II.NEED OF DATA ACQUISITION SYSTEMS
Data acquisition systems (DAS) interface between the real world of physical parameters, which are
analog, and the artificial world of digital computation and control. With current emphasis on digital
systems, the interfacing function has become an important one; digital systems are used widely because
they are low cost, accurate, and relatively simple to implement. In addition, there is rapid growth in the use
of microcomputers to perform difficult digital control and measurement functions. Computerized feedback
control systems are used in many different industries today in order to achieve greater productivity in our
modern industrial societies.
Data acquisition systems have evolved over time from electromechanical recorders containing typically
from one to four channels to all-electronic systems capable of measuring hundreds of variables
simultaneously. They are now used by most engineers and scientists for laboratory research, industrial
control, test, and measurement of input and output data to and from a computer. Industries that presently
employ such automatic systems include steel making, food processing, paper production, oil refining,
chemical manufacturing, textile production, cement manufacturing, and others.
III.COMPONENTS OF DATA ACQUISITION SYSTEM
Each data acquisition system has unique functionality to serve application specific requirements. A data
acquisition and control system typically consists of the following components:
Sensors which measure physical variables such as temperature, strain, pressure, flow, force and
motion (displacement, velocity and acceleration).
Signal conditioning circuitry to convert sensor signals into a form that can be converted to digital
Analog-to-digital converters, which convert conditioned sensor signals to digital values which can
be used by the computer.
A computer with the appropriate application software to process, analyze and log the data to disk.
Such software may also provide a graphical display of the data.
An output interface, to provide an appropriate process control response.
Hence the complete DAQ module can be divided into three categories:
Source and the system
DAQ hardware: It acts as an interface between the signal and a PC. DAQ cards often contain
multiple components (multiplexer, ADC, DAC, TTL-IO, high speed timers, RAM). These are
accessible via a bus by a microcontroller, which can run small programs.
DAQ software: Specialized DAQ software may be delivered with the DAQ hardware. DAQ
software is needed in order for the DAQ hardware to work with a PC.
Fig.1.Block diagram of Data Acquisition System
A. Source And System
It consists of the input acquired via sensor and the signal conditioning circuit to make the acquired
signal suitable with the DAQ hardware. It consists of:
1. Sensors and transducers: In order to sense and measure physical variables such as pressure, flow
and motion, it is necessary to use transducers or sensors, which convert physical variables into electrical
signals and transmit these signals to a signal conditioning device or directly to the data acquisition board.
Depending on the type of sensor, its electrical output can be a voltage, current, resistance, or another
electrical attribute that varies over time.
The six distinguishable energy forms that are usually measured are:
Radiant: Light, infrared radiation, nuclear radiation
Mechanical: Displacement/velocity/acc, Force/Torque
Thermal: Temperature, Heat flux
Electrical: Resistance, Capacitance, Voltage, Current, Energy, Power
Magnetic: Magnetic Flux density
Chemical: pH, Chemical Composition
2. Signal acquisition and conditioning circuit: The signal conditioning device performs the following
Supplies power to the transducer when required
Amplify, filter and digitize the sensor signal
Provide an appropriate output signal that can be easily processed by the analog to digital convertor.
An amplifier boosts the amplitude of the transducer output signal to a useful level for further.
Transducer outputs may be microvolt or milivolt level signals, which are then amplified to 1 to 10 V
levels. Furthermore, the transducer output may be a high impedance signal, a differential signal with
common-mode noise, a current output, a signal superimposed on a high voltage, or a combination of these.
The amplifier, in order to convert such signals into a high-level voltage, may be one of several specialized
types, such as the programmable gain instrumentation amplifier. The amplifier is frequently followed by a
low-pass active filter that reduces high-frequency signal components, unwanted electrical interference
noise, or electronic noise from the signal. The amplifier is sometimes also followed by a special nonlinear
analog function circuit that performs a nonlinear operation on the high-level signal. Such operations
include squaring, multiplication, division, rms conversion, log conversion, or linearization.
Fig.2. Signal conditioning steps
B. DAQ Hardware
The DAQ hardware turns the computer into a measurement and automation system. The terminal
block and cable route the signals to the specific pins of the DAQ device. The main criteria to consider
while selecting a DAQ device for a specific application are:
If it provides connection to the internet
Availability of software support
Type of input channels: a).Single ended input channels or b).Differential input channels
Compatibility with variety of protocols
No. of analog input channels
Plug-in type data acquisition cards
Not all DAQ hardware has to run permanently connected to a PC. Intelligent stand alone loggers and
oscilloscope can operate completely independent of the PC.
1. Analog to Digital convertor: The processed analog signal next goes to an analog multiplexer, which
switches sequentially between number of different analog input channels, in case signal from multiple
sensors are present. Each input is in turn connected to the output of the multiplexer for a specified
period of time by the multiplexer switch. During this connection time, a sample-hold circuit acquires
the signal voltage and then holds its value while an A/D converter converts the value into digital form.
The sampling time is determined by the DAQ hardware. The resultant digital word goes to a computer
data bus or to the input of a digital circuit.
Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADCs) transform an analog voltage to a binary number (a series of 1’s
and 0’s), and then eventually to a digital number (base 10) for reading on a meter, monitor, or chart. The
number of binary digits (bits) that represents the digital number determines the ADC resolution.
The different types of analog to digital convertors used in data acquisition systems are:
Dual Slope Integrating ADCs
Sigma Delta ADCs
The Analog to digital convertor also incorporates the following capabilities
High speed data transfer to the computer
Noise and anti-aliasing filtering
Programmable gain type of instrumentation amplifier
Circuitry for hardware and software triggering
2. DAQ hardware interfaces: In telecommunications, communication protocol is a system of digital
rules for data exchange within or between computers. Thus, a protocol must define
the syntax, semantics, and synchronization of communication. If the DAQ system is in the form of
modules then it can be connected to the computer's ports (parallel, serial, USB, etc.) or if in form of
cards then they are connected to slots (S-100 bus, ISA, MCA, PCI, PCI-E, etc.) in the motherboard.
Some of the major networking protocols, that are used in various industrial data acquisition systems
CAMAC - Computer Automated Measurement and Control
Industrial USB (Universal Serial Bus)
LAN eXtensions for Instrumentation
C. DAQ Software
DAQ software is needed in order for the hardware to work with a PC. It is the most critical factor in
obtaining reliable, high performance operation. The software transforms the PC and the hardware into a
complete data acquisition system which can analyze and display the parameters acquired from the source.
Specialized DAQ software may be delivered with the DAQ hardware. The different softwares available
are broadly classified into two categories:
Programmable Software involves the use of programming languages such as C++, Visual C++, BASIC,
etc. the advantage of using these softwares is it provides flexibility but it increases the complexity of
Data acquisition software packages do not require programming. They enable developers to design the
custom instrument best suited to their application. E.g. LabView, MATLAB, etc.
IV. DATA ACQUISITION PROCESSORS
For real time data acquisition and DAP boards are available which have on board processors. All data
acquisition processor boards consist of:
Have onboard processors.
Run DAPL, a multitasking, real-time operating system.
Have onboard memory.
Support external expansion boards to increase the number of data channels.
All have onboard analog and digital inputs and outputs. Onboard processors distribute intelligence to the
Data Acquisition Processor. This frees data acquisition from the control of operating systems, such as
Windows, which may not be available to the acquisition application when critically needed. By placing a
processor onboard, data acquisition and control is implemented by its own operating system, which is
optimized for data acquisition. In any application the onboard intelligence has a set of tasks to do. To
facilitate configuration and control of the DAP, software running on the PC communicates with the
onboard intelligence, instructing it on how to behave in an application. Some of the major advantages of
using DAP boards are:
Each Data Acquisition Processor (DAP) board gives the system an additional processor running a real-
time operating system that can be controlled from a Windows application.
Two or more DAP boards, in the same PC or on a network, can work together as a single synchronized
system. This is highly advantageous for large scale data acquisition, like in process industries.
High quality measurement: DAPs can provide direct measurements with 15+ accurate bits in the best
case. This helps to produce accurate measurements for quiet signals, or unbiased measurements for
noisy signals. DAP onboard filtering and careful calibration can yield measurement accuracy even in
the presence of random noise.
Many signal channels: DAP boards are designed with high-channel-count applications in mind,
supported by an array of termination and expansion products.
High sampling rates: Data Acquisition Processors are built for speed. At the low, slow end of the DAP
product line, sampling rates are 800,000 samples per second, without sacrificing sampling accuracy at
these speeds. Some other data acquisition cards sample fast, but not many can maintain accuracy at
their maximum rates.
Signal generation: In addition to sampling, Data Acquisition Processors can also generate
signals: complex waveforms, digital alarm outputs, and digital or analog control commands. These
processes do not interfere with sampling or reduce its capacity. Output clocking accuracy is the same as
the input clocking accuracy.
Real time response: The reserve of processing power necessary for high-speed data transfers also make
it possible for a DAP to respond to external events reliably. Delays of 10 milliseconds or much longer
are common in a loaded PC workstation. But on a DAP, updates are available at 1 millisecond intervals
or faster that are never late.
Long term operation: DAP processing has no unplanned interruptions, no conflicting applications, no
monitors or processes to interfere.
Example of DAP board: The xDAP line of Data Acquisition Processor systems combines high
performance analog interface with a speed-optimized USB host connection. Each xDAP has onboard
storage for a minute of buffered data at maximum rates and autonomous sampling is controlled by a 2 GHz
Intel processor. xDAP 7420 doubles the maximum per-channel sampling speed to 2M samples per second.
VI.ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF USING DAQ SYSTEM
Some of the main advantages of using data acquisition systems are:
Reduced data redundancy
Reduced updating errors and increased consistency
Greater data integrity and independence from applications programs
Improved data access to users through use of host and query languages
Improved data security
Reduced data entry, storage, and retrieval costs
Facilitated development of new applications program
Some disadvantages of using data acquisition systems are:
Database systems are complex, difficult, and time-consuming to design
Substantial hardware and software start-up costs
Damage to database affects virtually all applications programs
Extensive conversion costs in moving form a file-based system to a database system
Initial training required for all programmers and users
A simple and cost effective data acquisition system can be easily designed using an Arduino Uno card
and LabView software developed by National Instruments for experiments and project in laboratories. In
this project a potentiometer is interfaced with Arduino Uno card. Using LabView software the change in
voltage and resistance can be displayed on a computer screen. It is a simple real time data acquisition
system. The following steps were implemented for interfacing:
Arduino software was used for interfacing the card with LabView. The Labview Interface For
Arduino (LIFA) file is available in LabView Device and Drivers.
After uploading the LIFA file in Arduino it can be interfaced using LabView.
In LabView using the Arduino function a module can be designed to acquire the data from the
sensor that has been connected to the card. Here a potentiometer has been connected.
On changing the resistence there is a change in the voltage and that is displayed on the screen
using a dial. The resistance can also be displayed after performing some mathematical
Fig.3 Module for Arduino Interfacing
Fig.4 Display screen
Data acquisition systems basically acquire a analog signal through a transducer, convert it into digital
signal and then processes, stores, measures and analyses the acquired data with the help of various
software algorithms. Real time data acquisition systems consist of a processor which is mounted on the
module and this facilitates fast data processing and analysis. Data acquisition systems are used in all
industries such as chemical process plants, in consumer goods such as cameras, mobiles, etc and in
laboratories as well.
 National Instrument, Data Acquisition System, www.ni.com/data-acquisition
 United Electronic Industries, PC based Data Acquisition System, www.ueidaq.com
 Principles of data acquisition and conversion, Texas Instruments, www.ti.com
 Data Acquisition Handbook, Third Edition, Measurement Computing Corporation
 Data Acquisition System Review, www.engineersedge.com
 Data Acquisition Processor boards, Microstar Laboratories, www.mstarlabs.com