Data Acquisition FAQs

"What is data acquisition?" and other questions are explained in this data acquisition FAQ.

  1. What is "data acquisition"?
  2. How do data acquisition systems connect to a PC?
  3. Is USB or Ethernet a better data acquisition interface?
  4. Can a data acquisition system operate without a connected PC?
  5. What sampling rate range can I expect?
  6. What software support is available?
  7. What operating systems support can I expect?
  8. How far away from a computer can I locate a data acquisition device?
  9. What certifications are available for data acquisition systems?
  10. In what storage format should I record data?

What is "data acquisition"?

Data acquisition is a catch-all term applied to the process of storing information to either a connected computer or directly to a memory device. "Information" may be defined as analog data that has been converted into digital, or the states of available digital input ports. Such information is organized and recorded in a manner that is consistent with subsequent review and interpretation.

How do data acquisition systems connect to a PC?

These days, most solutions use either a USB or Ethernet interface. This approach is used in both PC-connected and also stand-alone applications for initial instrument configuration.

Is USB or Ethernet a better data acquisition interface?

USB interfaces offer only one advantage over Ethernet: Ease of use. DATAQ Instruments provides signed drivers provided with USB-enabled instruments, so you simply install the software and plug the device into a convenience USB port. Ethernet deployments are more complicated. They are less understood by customers and offer more configuration options, which can create confusion. Still, Ethernet-based instruments deployments are generally a straight forward process. This is where the advantages of USB end. In comparison, Ethernet deployments offer:

  • A longer reach of up to 100 meters versus about 16 feet for USB.
  • Hardwired and Wi-Fi LAN compatibility, which enhances accessibility and flexibility.
  • The potential to synchronize multiple distributed instruments.
  • Installation without a device driver.

Can a data acquisition system operate without a connected PC?

Depending upon the instrument, absolutely! Click here for a product filter of all stand-alone solutions.

What sampling rate range can I expect?

Sampling rate (or sampling interval) is purely product-dependent. We sell products that sample as infrequently as once per hour, and as fast as 1,000,000 times per second. Use our product filters to zero in on the products that best fit your application:

What software support is available?

Software support is different depending upon the product. All products that we sell include a Windows application in the form ready-to-run software that's designed to have you up and acquiring data within minutes. For those who need to program an application-specific solution, many products include SDKs that work with popular programming languages. Still others are supported by published protocols that enable support under custom programs, as well as support for operating systems other than Windows. Product pages provide details.

What operating systems support can I expect?

Generally, most current versions of Windows. However, some products with published protocols enable support under any operating system. Click through to the product page or call us for details.

How far away from a computer can I locate a data acquisition device?

It depends upon the interface supported by the device. Ethernet-based devices allow a home run CAT-5 cable length between the instrument and the computer of 100 meters (328 feet.) Ethernet also offers the potential to access an instrument from anywhere in the world if it is properly exposed to the Internet. USB devices are limited to about 16 feet, but most are provided with cables of only a few feet in length.

What certifications are available for data acquisition systems?

All of the product we sell are CE-approved to all them to be sold in all EU countries. Many products also are provided with an NIST-traceable calibration certificate, and others can be purchased with one.

In what storage format should I record data?

Only a handful of products are provided with software that allows you to define the storage format. Some products record data only in a text file format, and others only in a binary format. Products in the latter category will always provide software to convert all or part of a binary data file into text suitable for importing into most applications, the most notable of which is Excel. However, note that a binary data file or segment that is converted into a text format will explode in size by at least a factor of ten. Only two bytes are required to represent an acquired value in binary. The equivalent value in a text format is a function of the number of digits of precision, a decimal point, a delimiter, and line terminators. Binary is always a more memory-efficient storage format than text. This may become important as sampling rate and record times increase.