The purpose of any data acquisition system is to gather useful measurement data for characterization, monitoring, or control. The specific parameters of your application will dictate the resolution, accuracy, channel count, and speed requirements for a data acquisition system. There is a wide assortment of data acquisition components and solutions on the market, ranging from PC plug-in cards to data loggers to VXI mainframe systems. Before you start your search for a data acquisition solution, carefully analyze your application requirements, so you have a good understanding of how much capability and performance you need to purchase.

To help you choose a system that meets your needs, this article gives an overview of the components that make up a typical data acquisition system and examines some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different component types and configurations.