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 by the initialisms DAS, DAQ, or DAU, typically convert analog waveforms into digital values for processing. The components of data acquisition systems include:
- Sensors, to convert physical parameters to electrical signals.
- Signal conditioning circuitry, to convert sensor signals into a form that can be converted to digital values.
- Analog-to-digital converters, to convert conditioned sensor signals to digital values.
Digital Data Acquisition System Block Diagram
Data acquisition applications are usually controlled by software programs developed using various general purpose programming languages such as Assembly, BASIC, C, C++, C#, Fortran, Java, LabVIEW, Lisp, Pascal, etc. Stand-alone data acquisition systems are often called data loggers.
There are also open-source software packages providing all the necessary tools to acquire data from different, typically specific, hardware equipment. These tools come from the scientific community where complex experiment requires fast, flexible and adaptable software. Those packages are usually custom fit but more general DAQ packages like the Maximum Integrated Data Acquisition System can be easily tailored and is used in several physics experiments worldwide.