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Preview: What's New in Measurement and Control?

What's New in Measurement and Control?

The latest news, tutorials and articles on data acquisition and control using personal computers.


Flexible sensor detects different types of touch
Researchers from the University of British Columbia have developed a bendable, stretchable, transparent sensor that could have a wide range of applications in wearable electronics.

Sonic cyber attack shows security holes in accelerometer sensors
Sound waves could be used to hack into critical sensors in a broad array of technologies including smartphones, automobiles, medical devices and the Internet of Things, University of Michigan research shows.The new work calls into question the longstanding computer science tenet that software can automatically trust hardware sensors, which feed autonomous systems with fundamental data they need to make decisions.

Smart Energy Meters 582 percent out, say researchers
Researchers found over half of smart meters gave readings that were much higher than the actual amount of power consumed. Indeed, in some setups, these were up to 582 percent higher.

Magnetic hard drives go atomic
Physicists demonstrate the first single-atom magnetic storage.

The manufacturing industry is being revolutionized by the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing business models, increasing output, and automating processes across a number of industries. But no other sector has been more impacted by this technological revolution than manufacturing.

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 122 of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, is now up.

Return of Southern Manufacturing and Electronics
One of the key marketplaces for subcontract engineering services. Seminar topics addressed range from advice on Lean, effective design and selling technical products, to reviews of the latest advances in manufacturing technology.

Simulated ransomware attack shows vulnerability of Industrial Controls
Cybersecurity researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new form of ransomware that was able to take over control of a simulated water treatment plant. After gaining access, the researchers were able to command programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to shut valves, increase the amount of chlorine added to water, and display false readings.

Smart meter tracks when the kettle's on to check grandpa's OK
A monitoring system, tested in hundreds of UK homes, builds profiles of energy use and sends alerts if someone's routine changes in a worrying way

Bed sensors warn older adults of heart problems
The bed sensors use a flexible tube of water that can measure blood flowing through the body. The sensors are placed under the mattress providing a non-obstructive health monitoring system to help old people.

How to Interface a Vitrek High Voltage Meter
Logging data from a Vitrek voltmeter to Windows PC and Excel

Conductive rubber is breakthrough for soft electronics
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a thermally conductive rubber material that represents a breakthrough for creating soft, stretchable machines and electronics.

Robotic bee could help pollinate crops as real bees decline
With bee populations tumbling, an autonomous drone just 4 cm wide could help pollinate crops by flying from flower to flower

Printed lab on a chip costs a penny and catches disease early
The cheap diagnostic kit is made using a regular ink-jet printer and could catch cases of malaria and tb early in the developing world.

Monitor 221 Now Up
Latest issue of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, now up at

Industrial IoT Encourages Growth in Building Automation Systems
New IoT-related technologies have led to a resurgence in demand for building automation systems which monitor various subsystems such as HVAC, lighting, power systems and security systems.

Robot skin senses warm bodies like a snake locating nearby prey
A heat-sensing film could let robots detect when humans are around, like pit vipers hunting out warm-blooded prey. The flexible, transparent coating is made of pectin, a low-cost plant material used to set jam.

Smart buildings predict when critical systems are about to fail
Start-ups use sensors and machine learning to do "predictive maintenance", spotting faults in building systems like heating and air con before they crash

Making Inventors of us All
EVERY child has an inner inventor. I remember when I was a kid, getting excited over all the little build-your-own kits I was able to get my hands on. Technology opens up possibilities and can help us achieve near-miraculous things, but it can also be complicated. In fact, it is so complicated these days that it can sometimes seem completely out of reach.Launched last year, the BBC micro:bit, a pocket-sized, programmable computer, was designed to change this. The aim was to help every child unlock their creativity with technology, and the device was given free to a million 11-year-olds across the UK, introducing them to the world of invention. Already, a number of exciting micro:bit projects have been brought to life, from acceleration measurement in rocket cars to helping people with autism recognise other people's emotional states.

LED electrodes made from graphene for the first time
German researchers have succeeded in manufacturing organic light-emitting diode electrodes from graphene for the first time

Project aims for wearable systems in people centred smart cities
The technology could allow the wearers themselves to become mobile sensors, improving pollution and traffic monitoring within cities, and helping to coordinate evacuations during major incidents or disasters.

How Sweet It Is: NIST Metrology and the Maple Syrup Industry
NIST is frequently asked to provide unusual, sometimes downright exotic, measurements and calibrations in support of U.S. commerce. But even old hands in the Fluid Metrology Group were surprised last fall when they were called into a dispute over the metrics of maple sap.

Your walk could be a password that connects devices on your body
Sensors on different parts of your body can pick up your "gait fingerprint", letting wearable devices securely connect with each other

Monitor 220 Now Up
Latest issue of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, is now available at

Quantum computers ready to leap out of the lab in 2017
Google, Microsoft and a host of labs and start-ups are racing to turn scientific curiosities into working machines.

Phytoplankton Cycles Viewed Through Space-Based Sensor
Scientists succeeded in getting their first continuous look at the boom-bust cycles that drive polar plankton communities by using a space-based sensor capable of seeing through darkness, clouds and fog.

Mix of Graphene With 'Silly Putty' Yields Extremely Sensitive Sensor
Mixing graphene-a material made of single-atom-thick layers of carbon-with homemade "Silly Putty" produces a sensor so sensitive that it can detect the tiny footsteps of spiders, according to new research.

Learning Morse Code without Trying
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a system that teaches people Morse code within four hours using a series of vibrations felt near the ear. Participants wearing Google Glass learned it without paying attention to the signals - they played games while feeling the taps and hearing the corresponding letters. After those few hours, they were 94 percent accurate keying a sentence that included every letter of the alphabet and 98 percent accurate writing codes for every letter.

New Improved Piezoelectric Sensor Technology Holds Promise for Wide Range of Applications
A university research team has developed techniques to improve piezoelectric sensing capabilities. Optimised sensors could be used to enhance aviation, detect structural damage in bridges and buildings and further the functionalities of health monitors.

Sensors Text Farmers When Cows Get Sick
A half-pound, hot dog-size, Wi-Fi-enabled sensor can be embedded into a cow's stomach to detect the stomach pH, the cow's temperature, the amount the cow is moving and the amount of water that the cow has consumed in order to send farmers a message before the cow gets visibly sick.

Sensing the stresses in advanced composite structures
Advanced composites such as glass fibre reinforced polymers are light, stiff, strong, durable materials that can be flexibly shaped to build large load-bearing structures. New research using data logged from sensors on a GFRP structure has found it is possible to directly observe stresses in advanced composite structures.

Monitor 219 Now Up
The latest issue of Monitor - ISSN 1472-0221 - is now up at

Novel Sensing Technologies Present Growth Opportunities across Industries
The sensors and instrumentation technologies need to: achieve a high signal-to-noise ratio; minimise false positives and negatives; consume less power; enhance accuracy of sensed data; and be fit for operation across a wide temperature range in order to fulfill their growth opportunities. That's according to a new report from Frost and Sullivan.

Mussel-strong glue bonds underwater sensors
Researchers are using a protein produced by mussels to create a reversible synthetic glue that not only can bond securely underwater - but also may be turned on and off with electricity.

Excel Tips: Using Indirect References
If, in Excel, you create a link to a cell, eg =F3, then insert a column before column F, your formula will automatically change to =G3. This occurs even when you use absolute references like =$F$3. To prevent this change, use the INDIRECT function. For example, if you wanted to sum part of a row of cells, instead of using =SUM(F6:Z6) you would use =SUM(INDIRECT("F6:Z6")) Now if you insert a new column the formula will still refer to the original values.

Filtering: How to Remove Interference from your Signal
Learn when you need to filter your signals and the the right type of filter to use.

Move Over, Solar: The Next Big Renewable Energy Source Could Be At Our Feet
When chemically-treated wood pulp nanofibers are embedded within flooring, they're able to produce electricity that can be harnessed to power lights or charge batteries. And because wood pulp is a cheap, abundant and renewable waste product of several industries, flooring that incorporates the new technology could be as affordable as conventional materials.

Robomussels monitor climate change
Tiny robots have been helping researchers study how climate change affects biodiversity. The robomussels have the shape, size, and colour of actual mussels, with miniature built-in sensors that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.

Sensors and video reveal the unique feeding habits of whales
By attaching new sensor technology to whales just before they dive, researchers from Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station have captured whales' energetically expensive activity in more detail than ever before

Measuring the Olympics
From the distance of the first event to why so many swimming races are ties.

Understanding Signal Conditioning for Data Acquisition
Signal conditioning is the technique of making a signal from a sensor or transducer suitable for processing by data acquisition equipment.

Theoretical Climbing Rope Could Brake Falls
University of Utah mathematicians showed it is theoretically possible to design ideal climbing ropes to safely slow falling rock and mountain climbers like brakes decelerate a car. They hope someone develops a material to turn theory into reality.

Connecting a Rice Lake Balance to a Computer
How to automatically read data from a Rice Lake Balance and send the readings to Excel

Underwater robot could help in search and rescue
One potential use for a robot like this is during search and rescue operations in an underwater environment. The modules could split up and search for survivors more quickly and recombine to lift a heavy object and open up a passageway.

How to log data over I2C
What you need to know about I2C communications and data logging

Taking a weight reading by pressing the spacebar
Connecting an electronic balance directly to a computer

Excel: Copying only visible cells
You have hidden some of the rows or columns in your spreadsheet. If you select to copy a range containing the hidden cells, all cells will be copied - not just the visible ones. If you only wish to copy the cells you can see then you need to do things differently.

Measuring concentration of plankton in aquaculture research
Low-cost Windmill software helps logs fluorescence data and displays an almost real-time (5 second delay) graphical display of plankton decay

How to capture data from an Ohaus Balance
Windows software logs data from Ohaus balances and other instruments with serial ports.

Vehicle Sensing - 10 Technologies to Measure Traffic
From manual counts to computer vision, vehicle traffic sensing explained.

Underwater Robots Make Independent Decisions
Linking multi-sensor systems aboard an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) to enable the vehicle to process sound data in real-time means that it can independently make decisions about what action to take next.

Learn Conditional Averaging in Excel
How to average items in Excel depending upon the contents of cells further along the row.

How to choose between Thermocouples and RTDs
Temperature measurement is the most common application of data acquisition systems. You will need a device to measure the temperature - a temperature sensor. Thermocouples, resistance temperature devices (RTDs), thermistors, platinum resistance thermometers and infrared thermometers are all types of temperature sensor. The most popular are thermocouples and RTDs. The sensors you choose depends on several things, such as as your expected maximum and minimum temperatures, cost, accuracy needed and your environmental conditions.

GPS signal used for sat-navs could improve knowledge of ocean currents
For the first time sea level has been mapped from space using GPS reflections.

Controlling CO2 concentration in experimental greenhouses
As part of their experiments into crop efficiencies under changing climates, Spanish researchers needed to monitor and control carbon dioxide levels. The software they chose to do so was Windmill's Test Sequence.

Vehicle Traffic Sensors count in all Directions
Innovative vehicle traffic counter uses CCTV to count in all directions, in all weathers, day and night.

15 Ways to Improve your User Interface Design
How do you communicate with your data acquisition system? See and control what's happening?

7 Million dollar prize for developing ocean explorer robot
Teams which design an underwater vehicle to explore the deep sea could win millions of dollars. The vehicle must map the seafloor, produce images of specific objects, identify archeological, biological or geological features and, for a bonus, track a chemical or biological signal to its source.

Tagging Seals Improves Ocean Weather Forecasts
Data from animal-borne sensors, including seal tags, improves global ocean weather forecasts by between 1 and 6 percent.

Data shared from 1,900 sensors in the Gulf of Mexico to be quality assured
Nineteen thousand sensors collect data in the Gulf of Mexico every day, feeding it back to researchers around the world. But how do the people putting the data to work judge the accuracy and reliability of the information they're using? A new project will develop the tools and the social and technical infrastructure to gather this metadata - the data about the sensors - so end users know where the information came from and how it was collected.

Nickel Recycling Researchers use Windmill Software
To investigate efficient recovery of pure metallic nickel from nickel waste byproducts, researchers use Windmill software to continually collect weight data from Sartorius balances

Robots help map deep marine conservation zone
The UK's National Oceanography Centre has produced the first true three-dimensional picture of submarine canyon habitats, using a unique combination of marine robotics and ship-based measurements. The information captured in this new set of maps ranges in scale from the 200 km canyon down to the size of an individual cold-water coral polyp, and will be used to inform the management of the only English deep water marine conservation zone.

Solving the five challenges of human sensing
Researchers have identified five technology challenges in human sensing systems and concluded that the best system to combat these challenges is computer vision

Robots to measure marine wildlife
Two robotic vehicles will work together over the next three weeks to investigate why the Celtic deep area of the Celtic sea is particularly attractive to marine predators like dolphins and whales.

Elephant seals measure oxygen content of Southern Ocean
The seal-derived measurements of oceanic dissolved oxygen give better results than possible using any other method.

Learn about RS-232 connections
'One of the best places to learn about RS-232 (serial port connections) is the Windmill Software web site' Blaise Milbeck

Monitoring fluorescence during mussel acquaculture research
Mussel farmers in Canada are having problems with sea squirts. A sea squirt is a marine animal that looks like a little soft vase. In the wrong place they can cause massive economic damage with around 63% of the mussel harvest lost. Scientists are using Windmill software to help research mussel and sea squirt competition

Marine monitoring with sensors can save lives at sea
Six research organisations have joined forces to save lives at sea by providing a marine monitoring and forecasting service. Temperature, salinity, currents, ice, sea level, winds, ocean chemistry, ocean biology and chlorophyll will all be measured.

Download serial communication and data logging software
Communicate with almost any RS232, RS422, RS485, Modbus or TCP/IP device. Trouble-shooting capabilities for solving comms problems.

How to display Excel data on Google Earth: Excel to KML
Show spatially referenced data from Excel on Google Earth, and even a moving track of data over time.

Connect GPS to computer and spatially reference sensor readings
How to log live data from a gps alongside other instrument readings

UV indicator bracelet banishes sunburn
Researchers at Queen's University have developed a strip of plastic, containing "smart" ink, which turns colourless from an initial blue colour just before exposure to too much ultraviolet light from the sun, prompting people to cover up before they burn.

Excel tips and tricks for measurement and control
Over 50 tips on using Excel for data acquisition and control

Oil filtering net could clean spills
Oil repellent coating on steel mesh lets through water but not oil. Certain combinations of layers yield nanoparticles that bind to oil instead of repelling it. Such particles could be used to detect oil underground or aid removal in the case of oil spills.

Automation Made Easy: Everything You Wanted to Know About Automation
New book promises to break down the barriers and confusion surrounding the technical details and terminology used in the industrial automation environment.

Sensor sniffs out methane in deep sea vents and cows
Researchers have developed an instrument that can rapidly and precisely analyse samples of environmental methane to determine how the gas was formed.

Satellites reveal ocean acidificaton
Pioneering technique uses satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.

The computer that crunches cloud data to heat your home
Project Exergy is a domestic heater-cum-server that exploits the waste heat from cloud data processing - while handling your home computing needs too

Measuring the desiccation and cracking of soil
Desiccation cracks in soil cause all sorts of problems. They open a path for water and pollutant flow. In earth embankments, cracking reduces strength and can lead to seepage. In extreme cases, the cracks may trigger subsidance and even landslides. As the soil re-hydrates it swells, which could produce ground heave and serious structural damage to the fabric of buildings.

Data Logging from NMEA Devices
The NMEA interfacing standard ensures that conforming instruments all speak the same language. This language can be understood by PC programs like Windmill software, and data from many different instruments can be logged to one time-stamped file.

How to connect a Sylvac Dial Gauge or Digital Indicator to a computer
You need some data acquisition software, like Windmill's free comDebug program, and a Sylvac OPTO-RS cable. You can then log data and send it to Excel.

How to feed live data from a web page into Excel
There are two ways you can feed live data from a web page into Excel. The easiest just entails making menu and dialogue box selections in Excel. However, you can perform more sophisticated operations using a web query file.

Increasing crop yield whilst reducing fertiliser?
Measuring the productivity and nitrogen-use efficiency of cereal crops

Project to develop ultra-low energy consumption electronics
EU researchers look to advance tunnel field-effect transistor (TFET) technology, which relies on the quantum mechanical effect of quantum tunnelling to operate at voltages up to five times lower than those used in a standard mobile phone circuit.

Data logging from methanol sensors
Logging data from methanol control-fed batch fermentation in cancer research

Sensors watch for Red Tides
This year an array of sensors are watching for harmful red tides in the Gulf of Maine. Red tides are toxic and can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Mapping Particulate Matter from Salmon Farms
Salmon fish farms are proliferating. The open nature of many such aquaculture systems impact the surrounding sea, not least by releasing particles of organic matter. New study maps the spread of organic particles released from fish farms

How to communicate with communicate with Modbus devices over TCP/IP
Free software lets you set up and trouble-shoot Modbus connections over TCP/IP - with data logging from instruments and devices.

How to install USB devices under Windows 8
With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft imposes more restrictions on what it will let you install. The casualties include legitimate USB device drivers. If Windows 8 is not recognising your USB instruments, here is what to do.

Catching a tiger by the tail.
Attaching sensors to large tiger sharks means researchers can plot where they go and how deep. They even put little video cameras on the dorsal fins so they can see exactly what the sharks are doing (eating dead turtles because its easier than catching live ones).

Whale Watching from Space
But not by astronauts or space tourists. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey are using satellite images to detect and count southern right whales

Robot Swarm Slash Jellyfish
Aquatic robots communicate via ZigBee to exterminate jellyfish swarms

Improved free serial communication, data logging and trouble-shooting software
Latest version of Windmill Software's ComDebug lets users: log data from sensors that send data as a web page; Collect data as 4-byte (32-bit) integers, 4-byte words (double words), ASCII characters, hexadecimal, signed bytes, bytes, bits, 4-byte floating point or 4-byte reverse floating point; Enter custom commands to extract data or output control messages; Easily identify communication problems; Communicate more easily with TCP/IP, Modbus, RS-485, RS-422 and RS-232 measurement devices.

Assigning a Lower Virtual COM port number
When you plug a USB-serial converter into the computer's USB port, Windows will assign it a COM port number. This is sometimes too high for your data acquisition software. Read how to choose a different virtual com port number...

Serial Ports and RS232 Reference Guide
Updated guide to understanding RS232 serial port communication for data acquisition and control.

Windmill Software Announce Ten Data Acquisition And Control Programs
Windmill Software is delighted to launch their Enhanced Windmill software suite. Enhanced Windmill includes human machine interface software, data logging, charting, output control, programming tools, alarm monitoring and drivers for instruments communicating over Ethernet, Internet, USB, Modbus, RS232, RS422, RS485 and TCP/IP.

New Electronic Archive of Research Papers
E-Print ArXiv is a fully automated electronic archive and distribution server for research papers. It covers areas such as physics and related disciplines, mathematics, non-linear sciences and computer science. The e-prints on E-Print ArXiv are freely accessible for everyone. The E-Print ArXiv data in Scirus are retrieved through the Open Archives Initiative.