If there were an overarching theme – Moore’s Law would be it. As DAQ devices have grown more intelligent, these devices can do more than acquire and save data. They can intelligently adapt to conditions and communicate with devices through standard networks (such as WiFi or Ethernet). Mobile devices have become so prolific in our lives. We have instant access to data in our pocket. That fact has pressured industry to take this trend up as well.
We are possibly closer to this technology than previously thought. With data acquisition, mobile devices can be incorporated. It is predicted that iPhones or tablets will becomes devices capable of data acquisition. These devices already have sensors in them (such as gyroscopes and accelerometers). It is just a matter of time before there are sensors implemented in them that is just right for industry specific use.
Today, it is possible to connect portable data acquisition hardware to mobile devices, which most people thought (a few years ago) would be challenging. For example, people that mostly have iPhones and iPads, do not have a standard bus (like a USB port). Taking the recent release of the Windows tablets, there is a USB port built right in. You can take a DAQ device and plug it into a Windows 8 tablet. It runs Windows 8 and will support your drivers, while supporting your development or software environment and can run on the tablet itself. You have a portable DAQ system that no longer needs a laptop, enabling you to take measurements on the go.
Inclusion of mobile devices as remote HMIs (human machine interface)
With this trend, the device in your pocket essentially becomes your window into the state of the device itself. Because of the advancement of intelligence in data acquisition (thanks Moore’s Law), you can publish data over the network or send updates to a cell phone or email immediately. This can be something as simple as a text message when a test is finished running something as complex as controlling or viewing the running state of a device over a smart phone.
There is a spectrum of which a phone can become a HMI. It can be as simple as sending cellphones updates; more complex as using a software to remote into a running DAQ device and see the state of the device itself; or even more complex as the DAQ device serving up data or exposing ways to connect to the device, while taking advantage of that from an app running on the phone.
Mobile device space as it pertains to industry
The mobile device market is very volatile in terms of who has market share. This is good for us as consumers, because it drives competition and breeds better devices. We can decide to switch devices or carriers basically whenever we want. However, in industry, people want standardization and dependability. If you take a look at data from 5 years ago, today, and predictions for future, there has been a shift between ownership of market share amongst major players in the industry (iOS from Apple, Android from Google, QNX from Blackberry and the Windows phone from Microsoft). At first, Blackberry dominated the market, then Apple. The numbers from today state that Android is number one. This continuous shift in market share makes it difficult for industry to choose which operating system they want to adopt, due to different platform development. Currently, you cannot take an iOS app, stick on an Android device and hit run. They are running on different operating systems with different protocols, which makes it challenging for industry adoption standardization. What is consistent is a preference toward generic and widely supported web standards for communication and security instead (such as HTML 5 or web services or SSL). These standards are supported across platforms versus doing native development in iOS or Android code.