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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.


Scientists track sharks by sampling seawater
Current methods of baiting, hooking and filming sharks, rays and other large fish are invasive and costly and require teams of scientists spending much time at sea. The new study published in Scientific Reports shows that a sample of seawater can provide the identifiable tracks of numerous species of shark.

Sea urchins help scientists develop super-strong cement
A pillar made of this cement could be built 8000 metres high - and all because of the sea urchin blueprint.

Sensors applied to plant leaves warn of water shortage
Electronic circuits reveal when a plant begins to experience drought conditions.

Simple system to locate marine mammals
Researchers have developed an underwater acoustic system locate marine mammals, underwater vehicles and other sound sources in the ocean, using no more than a single hydrophone (basically an underwater microphone) as a receiver.

Marine sensors funding to help probe mysteries of the deep
The sensors that will result are designed to be compatible with autonomous underwater systems such as NOC's autosub Boaty McBoatface and will be able to perform a variety of functions at sea, helping answer questions about our changing oceans.

UK government launches Year of Engineering campaign
The UK government has pledged to work with hundreds of industry partners throughout 2018 to encourage young people and their parents to take a closer look at engineering.

Virtual cocktails hijack your senses to turn water into wine
Using a combination of LEDs, electrodes and smelly gas, the Vocktail can simulate a variety of flavours to create digital drinks

Printable bacteria used for low-energy biosensors
UK researchers have used bacteria as a solar-harvesting ink to print paper-based disposable biosensors.

Improving sensor accuracy to prevent electrical grid overload
Engineers take note -- new current sensors need fine-tuning to accurately inform monitors of the electrical grid about incoming surges.

Hot rocks offer solution to grid-scale energy storage
A facility that uses the temperature difference between hot and cold rocks to store energy is being launched as part of a new research centre led by Newcastle University.

Smart fabric can detect and protect against toxic gases
The smart fabric works by using textile-supported electronic sensors based on materials known as metal-organic frameworks or MOFs.

Flexible graphene detector extends scope of terahertz sensors
Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind flexible detector for terahertz frequencies using graphene transistors on plastic substrates.

JILA Spinning Method Confirms the Electron Still Seems Round
Physicists have for the first time used the spinning molecules technique to measure the "roundness" of the electron.

Flexible sensor skin gives robots a sense of dexterity
Robots could soon handle objects with the same dexterity as humans thanks to a flexible sensor skin developed by engineers from the University of Washington and UCLA.

Bacteria self-organise to build working sensors
American researchers have turned bacteria into the builders of useful devices by programming them with a synthetic gene circuit.

Drone designers accidentally explain colour of albatross wings
Why are some birds' wings darker on top? Engineers may have found the answer while trying to design a biomimetic drone that goes further on less fuel

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 229 of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, is now up

Flying and rolling drone will map underground mines on its own
Underground spaces can be tricky and dangerous for humans to explore, but a new drone is up to the task

Robots can hitch-hike on sharks thanks to ultrastrong sucker
A suction cup modelled on how a strange faeces-eater attaches to other fish can withstand a pull of 340 times its weight, letting robots ride sharks and whales

Researchers develop low-cost device to recover underwater sensor-system moorings
Oceanographic research projects often deploy underwater sensor systems in the sea. These are retrieved from deep water by remotely releasing them from their moorings. However, the mooring anchor, shackles and cables can not be easily recovered.Australian engineers have therefore developed a retrieval pod to enable the recovery of moorings. They attach this directly to the remotely released underwater devices.

Sensors for Robotics Market to Grow to $510 Million in 2017
That figure will continue to grow as consumer markets were cited as the fastest growing industry segment at 12.6% CAGR, says BCC Research.

Are smart meters fundamentally flawed?
Using a small number of cheap sensors to gather data about energy use, new device makes recommendations on how to save money based on usage patterns

Shoe sensor will protect your back from heavy lifting
A couple of simple sensors placed inside a normal shoe and safety hat could alert you when bad posture is about to cause you a nasty injury

Latest issue of Monitor- ISSN 1472-0221 - now up
Issue 228 of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, now up

UK developed functional ink could be used to print 2D electronic devices
An advanced new ink that can be deposited using conventional inkjet printing techniques could be used for the mass manufacture of a host of laser and optoelectronic devices according to a group at Cambridge University.

Dementia and brain research could be improved thanks to new sensor
A new ultra lightweight wireless sensor system for recording neural activity in the brains of mice, could advance dementia and brain research.

A Sensor on your skin that looks and feels like a temporary tattoo
Ultrathin, lightweight, breathable sensor constructed from nanoscale mesh, a spaghetti-like entanglement of fibres a thousand times thinner than a human hair - removing the discomfort of wear.

Light-trapping sensor could detect drugs and bomb components
The sensor boosts surface-enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) spectroscopy to detect molecules at 100 to 1000 times greater resolution than previously attainable.

Portable biosensor uses smartphone camera as spectrometer
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a diagnostic biosensor that uses a smartphone camera as a spectrometer.

Ships fooled in GPS spoofing attack suggest Russian cyberweapon
A hack that manipulated the location of 20 ships in the Black Sea may be the first form of GPS spoofing, a type of cyber-warfare capable of widespread disruption.

The renewables reality: clean energy hasn't risen for 25 years
Big countries are already cutting back on support for solar and wind. They should be doing the opposite, or else the renewable revolution will falter

Sensor Sniffs Out Dopey Athletes, Bombs and who knows what Else
A light-trapping sensor, developed by researchers at the University at Buffalo, shows promise in the detection of performance-enhancing drugs and airborne particles of explosives.

Air Pollution Control Equipment Market To Reach US$21B by 2021
Global demand for air pollution control equipment topped $13.3 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach nearly $21 billion by 2021, according to a report by BCC Research.

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 227 of Monitor (ISSN 1472-0221), the data acquisition and control newsletter, now on-line

Optical coating provides indication of concrete stress
New types of concrete can use up plastic waste, but their fracturing properties are not well known. A new coating solves this using light reflection to identify areas of stress.

Screaming gel balls reveal a way to power soft but noisy robots
A viral video of gel beads bouncing and squealing in a hot frying pan has led to the discovery that hydrogels slapping against a hot surface can generate substantial kinetic energy. This could give a power boost to bots made of such materials.

Glove turns sign language into text for real-time translation
The 26 letters of American Sign Language have been coded so far, letting people who are deaf and do not write English communicate easily with anyone around them

Latest issue of Monitor- ISSN 1472-0221 - now up
Issue 226 of Monitor is now up at

Sailing drones are collecting data from the Arctic to the tropics
Over the next four months, NOAA scientists will launch unmanned ocean vehicles, called Saildrones, from the Arctic to the tropical Pacific Ocean to help better understand how changes in the ocean are affecting weather, climate, fisheries and marine mammals. The wind and solar-powered research vehicles will travel thousands of miles across the ocean, reaching some areas never before surveyed with such specialised technology.

Invisibility cloak makes solar panels work more efficiently
A new material that hides the metal grid on top of solar panels make them 9 per cent more efficient in lab tests

Next-gen drones will fly and dive into the sea like pelicans
Underwater glider drones can travel far on little power, but they're slow. The US navy wants to give them a speed boost by letting them take flight.

Low-power temperature sensor could turn wearables into unawareables
Near-zero-power consumption sensor from University of California opens up the possibility of energy-harvesting devices

Google's multitasking neural net can juggle eight things at once
Deep-learning systems can struggle to handle more than one task, but a fresh approach by Google Brain could turn neural networks into jacks of all trades

Drone Uses Wi-Fi for 3-D Through-Wall Imaging
Researchers demonstrate three-dimensional imaging through walls using wireless signal.

New sensors exactly measure pressures at 400 oC
Many industrial processes depend on exact pressure gauges. The SOI high-pressure sensors (silicon-on-insulator) makes this exact monitoring possible for processes operating at temperatures of up to 400 oC.

Materials compression testing uses low cost strain measurement
Repetitive loadings of brittle materials like marble cause internal damages that gradually expand, leading to inevitable failures. Interestingly, a structure will only suffer further internal damage if exposed to stresses higher than previously encountered.

IoT UK Boost Award goes to Retail Sensing
Smart City technology developed by Retail Sensing has enabled them to win an IOT UK Boost award from The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Graphene fish scale coating will make structural damage visible
Colour-changing graphene-based coating could reveal hidden damage in buildings and structures.

How to add average, maximum and minimum levels to your Excel chart
A reader this month wanted to know how to add average, maximum and minimum horizontal lines to his Excel chart.

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

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.

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.

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.