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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.


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.

Engineers create radiation sensor for space
Researchers have created an ion sensor that can detect higher radiation in space. The sensors will be placed on weather satellites and launched into space from Florida.

Universe's Constants Now Known with Sufficient Certainty to Completely Redefine the International System of Units
According to a recent evaluation and update of the values of the fundamental constants by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the uncertainties in measurements of the constants have now been reduced to such exceedingly low levels that all of the SI units can now be linked to them.

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.

Shaking Things Up With More Control
A new algorithm can help machines avoid damage or malfunctions from resonant frequencies. This month, Samsung recalled 2.8 million top-loading washing machines due to excessive vibrations that could cause the top to break off - a problem that led to at least nine reported injuries. The vibrations happen when the normal oscillations of the washing machine become trapped in resonance, causing it to shake harder and harder at the resonant frequency. New research solves this.

Low-energy melting of magnetism has potential for data storage
A new type of perovskite, the first-ever magnetic photoconductor, could lead the way to the next generation of data storage devices, according to its discoverers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Soft Acoustic Sensors Could Monitor Hearts, Recognize Speech
A soft acoustic sensor that someone can wear like a sticker on their skin can monitor their heartbeat and recognise spoken words, researchers say.

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.

Pressure-tolerant batteries promise improved performance for deep-dive underwater vehicles
The technology could help to improve the endurance and speed of deep-dive autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

Scientists develop new method of dissipating heat in electronics
Scientist have devised a new method to dissipate heat in electronic devices, an advance that could lead to smaller and faster computer chips, high-performance solar panels and better lasers.

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.

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 218 of Monitor (ISSN 1472-0221), the data acquisition newsletter, now up

Smallest. Transistor. Ever.
A research team has created a transistor with a working 1-nanometer gate. For comparison, a strand of human hair is about 50000 nanometers thick.

Soil Moisture and Snowpack Data Could Help Predict 'Flash Droughts'
Soil moisture and snowpack data can predict droughts months in advance.

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.

'Sensing Skin' Detects Cracks, Harmful Chemicals in Structures
Researchers have developed a multi-layered "sensing skin" to detect corrosive or otherwise harmful substances in structures. The skin can also detect cracks and other structural flaws that are invisible to the naked eye.

Wireless charging for drones
Despite the rapid rise of drone technology, its application is frequently limited by re-charging requirements. Thanks to wireless recharging technology developed by engineers at Imperial College London this could all be about to change.

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.

First farm to grow veg in a desert using only sun and seawater
Sunshine and seawater. That's all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 17000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert.

An energy first as UK successfully transmits data via national electricity grid
New technology is a significant step towards the creation of virtual power stations that would enable smarter electricity use by homes and businesses

Basic common sense is key to building more intelligent machines
An unfashionable old technique that helps modern artificial intelligences grasp our world could make them more versatile and better at communicating with us.

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 217 of Monitor, the data acquisition and control newsletter, now up at

World Standards Week
World Standards Week is designed to inspire open dialogue about developments and challenges related to standardisation and conformity assessment. From 24-28 October.

Mini dog robot can bounce, open doors and even climb fences
Minitaur is designed to be an affordable and practical quadruped robot. Not only can it cross obstacle-strewn terrain impassable to wheeled and tracked robots, it can also climb stairs and chain-link fences.

Building smart infrastructure sensors
Smart sensors, designed by an engineering team at Washington University, can easily be embedded into infrastructure, allowing bridges, highways and buildings to self-check for damage in case of an earthquake or other emergency.

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

Don't lose control of your factory automation
Factories of the future will demand advanced circuit protection technology to keep everything connected

Harmful Algal Blooms in Their True Colours
Some cyanobacteria algae produce toxins, but which are a problem? One potential way to do so is with hyperspectral imaging (HSI). Whereas the human eye sees color in three broad bands - red, green, and blue - HSI collects spectral data in dozens of very narrow wavelength bands and builds up detailed composite images, wherein a complete spectrum is associated with every pixel.

Chaos-based microchips possible alterative to Moore's Law
Researchers have developed chaos-based integrated circuits that enable computer chips to perform multiple functions with fewer transistors. These could lead to novel computer architectures that do more with less circuitry and fewer transistors.

Monitor 216 now up
The latest issue of Monitor - ISSN 1472-0221 - is now up at

Sheffield robot swarm exhibits Turing Learning
Researchers from the University of Sheffield have created a robot swarm capable of learning how other systems work, and whose learned behaviour can pass a Turing Test.

Mercedes van will be a mothership for fleets of delivery robots
A van pulls up in a village street and a ramp extends to the pavement from a side door. A swarm of wheeled robots trundle down the ramp and head off down local streets on missions of their own. Their cargo delivered, they head back up the ramp and the van drives off.

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

Interscatter enables medical implant data transfer
The so-called interscatter communication works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi transmissions. Using only reflections, an interscatter device such as a smart contact lens converts Bluetooth signals from a smartwatch into Wi-Fi transmissions that can be picked up by a smartphone.

Researchers create smart tattoos - on-skin user interfaces
Gold leaf in a temporary tatoo enables 3 kinds of user interface on a person's skin: sensing touch input, displaying output and communicating wirelessly with other devices.

Data acquisition market to reach 3 billion
Growing at rate of 6 percent over 5 years.

ISA launches SCADA Systems Standards Committee
After a survey showed widespread support for the idea, ISA's Standards and Practices Board has approved a new committee to be designated ISA112, SCADA Systems.

Are smart city transport systems vulnerable to hackers?
There are a lot of companies making new devices for the urban Internet of Things that have not made computers or written software before. They are having to re-learn a lot of the lessons that the rest of the information technology industry learned over the past 20 years.

The bandwidth bottleneck that is throttling the Internet
Researchers are scrambling to repair and expand data pipes worldwide - and to keep the information revolution from grinding to a halt.

Libraries of plastic molecules could store huge amounts of data
Coding information across many short chains of plastic molecules could be a space-saving way to store the mountains of data we produce

Crystal mimics brain cell to sift through giant piles of data
Like a neuron, the new chip fires when it reaches a certain threshold

Latest issue of Monitor now up
Issue 215 of Monitor (ISSN 1472-0221), the data acquisition and control newsletter, is now up at

Gas Sensors See through Soil to Analyze Microbial Interactions
New tool to study how microbes trade genetic material in the environment

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.

Atom wranglers create rewritable memory
Chlorine atoms arranged into grids bring researchers closer to data-storage devices that could hold the US Library of Congress.

Engineered "Sand" May Help Cool Electronic Devices
The bottom line could be a potentially new class of high thermal conductivity materials useful for heat dissipation from power electronics, LEDs and other applications with high heat fluxes.

Sensing trouble: A new way to detect hidden damage in bridges, roads
Aging, deterioration and extreme events like earthquakes and hurricanes can take a toll on roads, bridges and other structures. With damage and defects often invisible, the search is on for systems that can monitor the health of structures and alert their owners to potential problems and even impending catastrophic failure.

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.

Improving the certification of intelligent devices
In today's world there are more devices monitoring a multitude of physical processes in interconnected global digital networks, such as drones, autonomous cars, industrial robot chains and intelligent trains. Now a European research project is attempting to improve and speed up the certification processes used to accredit the proper functioning of these devices.

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).