Major Usage Shifts Expected in Data Acquisition Products

July 1, 2003
Natick, Massachusetts - A new report from Venture Development Corporation (VDC) finds that purchasers of external chassis & module and plug-in analog

Natick, Massachusetts - A new report from Venture Development Corporation (VDC) finds that purchasers of external chassis & module and plug-in analog I/O boards for data acquisition applications expect to make significant shifts in the types of products they are purchasing over the next 5 years.

The report is based on an extensive survey of purchasers (end users, OEMs, and others) of data acquisition products that probed their current requirements and likely requirements four years from now. Products covered in the investigation included:

External Chassis & Modules-Data Loggers, Distributed/Remote I/O, Paperless Chart Recorders, PC Front Ends, and Standalone Systems Plug-In Analog I/O Boards Classified by Bus Architectures-Compact PCI, ISA, PC/104, PCI, PCMCIA (PC Cards), PXI, VME, and VXI.

Below shows the percent of survey respondents who indicated they are buying these products by type. Some of these products tend to be purchased more by end users in various industries, while others tend to be purchased more by OEMs and others who incorporate these into equipment and systems they sell. For example:

- Data loggers, paperless chart recorders, and standalone systems tend to be purchased more by end users for their own applications.

- PC front ends and distributed/remote I/O tend to be purchased more by OEMs and others

- Compact PCI, PC/104, PXI, and VME plug-in analog I/O boards tend to be purchased more be OEMs and others

- ISA and PCMCIA (PC Card) plug-in analog I/O boards tend to be purchased more by end users for use for their own applications.

Purchase of Data Acquisition Products by Types

(Percent of User Respondents)

A) External Chassis & Modules

Data Loggers: 74%

PC Front Ends: 64%

Standalone Systems: 61%

Distributed/Remote I/O: 51%

Paperless Chart Recorders: 28%

B) Plug-In Analog I/O Boards

PCI: 68%

PCMCIA (PC Card): 56%

ISA: 50%

Compact PCI: 22%

PC/104: 20%

VME: 16%

VXI: 14%

PXI: 11%

Note: Percentages sum to over 100% because many respondents purchasemultiple types of products.

The growth in use of data acquisition products is of course tied theexpansion or decline of the consuming industries and applications.However, there are many other factors:

Factors tending to increase demand:

- A greater need for testing to insure quality and robustness of products, and to increase productivity.

- Increasing regulatory agency (FDA etc.) requirements for data.

- Need is often keyed to development activities in firms - new projectsresult in more procurements.

- Price is a consideration - lower prices will lead to more usage. Forexample, the ability to use COTS is helping to lower prices on data acquisition products for military/aerospace applications.

- Obsolescence of older data acquisition products - Newer products can provide better reliability and performance. These are likely to be faster, have more options, and may be cheaper.

Factors tending to decrease demand:

- In laboratory and R&D use the data acquisition equipment is often re-used from project to project - It is broken down and re-configured.

- Make versus buy decisions - Some users may decide to make their own data acquisition boards, or assemble their own external data acquisition systems. Of course the opposite also may happen, with the user shifting from making to buying the equipment.

- Shifts to full end-to-end test systems rather than use of separately purchased data acquisition equipment.

Below shows the overall unit procurement growth rate projections by the survey respondents for the various products. Most significant are the relatively high average growth rate projections for Compact PCI and PXI plug-in analog I/O boards, and the sharp declines expected in procurement of VME and ISA boards. In the external chassis and modules, the highest average growth rates among the survey respondents are expected for distributed/remote I/O and PC front ends, and the lowest for data loggers and standalone systems. Some of the more specific reasons for the growth rate expectations among the product types are discussed in the next two sections.

Growth Rate Projections in Unit Procurements of Data Acquisition Products by Types (Average Growth Rate* Projections in Unit Purchases by Respondents)

A) External Chassis & Modules

Distributed/Remote I/O: 7.2%

PC Front Ends: 6.8%

Paperless Chart Recorders: 5.5%

Standalone Systems: 3.6%

Data Loggers: 3.2%

B) Plug-In Analog I/O Boards

PXI: 14.3%

Compact PCI: 13.2%

PCMCIA (PC Card): 9.9%

VXI: 5.1%

PCI: 0.7%

PC/104: 0.6%

ISA: -16.2%

VME: -24.0%

* -Compound Annual Growth Rates, for 2002 through 2007


The Compact PCI bus is an adaptation of the PCI specification for rugged and embedded applications that require a more robust mechanical form factor. PXI, which was developed by National Instruments, but is now an open industry standard, is an adaptation of Compact PCI. The PXI specification simplifies the PCI specification by limiting options. This simplifies integration, increases the degree of compatibility between system controllers and chassis of different vendors, and prevents expansion of system controllers in using up valuable peripheral slots. These factors favor the adoption of these buses for data acquisition applications.

Both ISA and VME are older technologies that are being replaced. ISA plug-in analog I/O boards have limited bandwidth and data rate capabilities, and these are being displaced in applications by Compact PCI, PCI, and PXI. There is some VME displacement in applications by VXI. Beyond this, most VME implementations are in computer systems with PowerPC microprocessors, and the largest share of these utilize the VxWorks operating system. In contrast, as shown in this study, most of the data acquisition market is principally involved in the use of Intel microprocessors and Microsoft operating systems. Even respondents in industries and applications where use of VME boards has been relatively strong expect to shift more to use of data acquisition products using Compact PCI and PCI buses, Intel microprocessors and Microsoft operating systems.


Regarding these products, significant numbers of survey respondents, and in particular end-user purchasers, expect to switch from using these products to the use of distributed/remote I/O and PC front ends which provide interfaces from the sensors back to personal computers where the data storage and analysis is done.

Paperless (or videographic) chart recorders are ones in which the paper recording mechanism has been replaced by an electronic display. There is an ongoing trend to use of these rather than paper recorders, as these eliminate use of paper consumables, simplify long-term data storage, provide more flexibility and better data analysis, and can result in significant cost savings.

Founded in 1971, VDC is a technology market research and consulting firm that specializes in industrial and commercial electronics, computing, communications, software and power system markets.

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