Sensor program gains favor

At this year's Sensors Expo and Conference, held in Boston, MA, National Instruments (NI; Austin, TX; www.ni.com) announced its Plug and Play Sensors Program, a collaborative effort between NI and sensor vendors aimed at promoting the IEEE P1451.4 standard.

At this year's Sensors Expo and Conference, held in Boston, MA, National Instruments (NI; Austin, TX; www.ni.com) announced its Plug and Play Sensors Program, a collaborative effort between NI and sensor vendors aimed at promoting the IEEE P1451.4 standard. With this standard, systems integrators and developers can automatically configure measurement and automation systems for analog sensors, making data-acquisition systems easier to set up, configure, and maintain.

In the proposed standard, sensors include an embedded memory that contains standardized transducer electronic data sheets (TEDS) that store sensor information and parameters for self-identification and self-description. The TEDS eliminate the need to manually input these data when configuring a system.

"Our customers need such intelligent sensors to automate the calibration of data input," said Martin Armson, director of marketing at Sensotec (Columbus, OH; www.sensotec.com). "Embedded, standardized TEDS information in IEEE P1451.4 sensors reduces system configuration time and increases the general integrity and reliability of their systems by reducing human error," he adds.

At the conference, the company launched its Identity Technology plug-and-play systems for its sensors and signal-conditioning products. When connected to SC2000 transducer signal conditioner/indicatorsor IEEE1451.4-compliant signal conditioning, the sensor is interrogated for the TEDS information and automatically sets up and calibrates the signal conditioning with the sensor. By using IEEE1451.4-compliant sensors and systems, developers do not have to search for sensor-calibration data sheets nor worry about the identity of blind cable and connectors. Data are stored in the sensor and are automatically recognized when the signal conditioning is powered up.

Also conforming to the IEEE P1451.4 standard, the 8793A500 PiezoSmart accelerometer from Kistler (Amherst, NY; kistler.com) simultaneously measures vibration and shock in x, y, and z axes. It can operate as a low-impedance, voltage-mode accelerometer with an analog output or in a digital PiezoSmart sensor mode capable of providing pertinent information stored within its memory module. Since the design of the accelerometer conforms to IEEE P1451.4, any TEDS signal conditioner, along with a host computer, can address and retrieve the stored information. The smart sensor's operating mode allows information regarding accelerometer location and position direction to be entered and accessed by a host processor.

Endevco (San Juan Capistrano, CA; www.endevco.com) demonstrated its Network Sensors, whch pack sensor and on-board electronics to provide a networked digital output instead of an analog output signal. Each sensor combines analog signal conditioning, analog-to-digital conversion, digital-signal processor, and network communications into one module.

As part of the Plug and Play Sensors Program, NI and sensor vendors are exploring an on-line database of sensor vendors' model data, in which developers download TEDS binary files, or Virtual TEDS, to their systems. With Virtual TEDS, engineers can take advantage of new sensor technology with their traditional measurement hardware, providing a transition to the next generation of systems.

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