What is a Data Acquisition System?

So you may have been assigned a new task so set up a data acquisition system and you ask yourself “What is a Data Acquisition System?”. You can start with Wikipedia has a great article on Data_Acquisition which you can read to start your learning. The only problem is that it is just a starting point and it doesn’t really help you get the project done. Let’s use it here to see if we can if we can help start the process of getting up to speed.

The point of the definition is: 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, typically convert analog waveforms into digital values for processing.

What is a Data Acquisition System?
Digital Data Acquisition System Block Diagram

The components of data acquisition

  1. Sensors, to convert physical parameters to electrical signals. A sensor, which is a type of transducer, is a device that converts a physical property into a corresponding electrical signal (e.g., potentiometer, thermistor). An acquisition system to measure different properties depends on the sensors that are suited to detect those properties.
  2. Signal conditioning circuitry, to convert sensor signals into a form that can be converted to digital values. Signal conditioning may be necessary if the signal from the transducer is not suitable for the DAQ hardware being used. The signal may need to be filtered, shaped or amplified in most cases. Various other examples of signal conditioning might be bridge completion, providing current or voltage excitation to the sensor, isolation, linearization. For transmission purposes, single ended analog signals, which are more susceptible to noise can be converted to differential signals.
  3. Analog-to-digital converters, to convert conditioned sensor signals to digital values. Once digitized, the signal can be processed to reduce and correct measurement errors.
  4. Data acquisition software, computer programs developed using various general purpose languages such as Python, C, VBA (Excel), etc. There are also prewritten software packages, such as LabVIEW. They can provide all the necessary tools to acquire data from different hardware devices. These tools were originally developed for use by the scientific community where complex experiments require fast, flexible and adaptable software. Those packages can also be custom fit in general problems. They can be easily tailored and used in a short amount of time. They can help you see their value vs labor cost.

Where can I get data acquisition components?

You will find the right parts of your data acquisition system in the Helix Energy Transfer web store. So Click here to see what is available.

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