What Is an NI CompactDAQ Controller?

Publish Date: Aug 01, 2014 | 3 Ratings | 4.33 out of 5 |  PDF

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. High-Performance Multicore Processing
  3. Embedded OSs
  4. Measurements Timing and Synchronization
  5. C Series I/O Channel Expansion
  6. Integrating Displays and External Devices
  7. Software
  8. Related Links

1. Introduction

NI CompactDAQ controllers expand the NI CompactDAQ platform with stand-alone data acquisition systems for high-performance embedded measurements and logging. The controllers feature built-in powerful Intel dual-core processors so that NI CompactDAQ can run acquisition and analysis software while logging data to onboard or removable SD memory. For the first time, NI CompactDAQ can operate completely stand-alone integrating a processor, DAQ hardware, and signal conditioning with software to reduce system cost and complexity and increase measurement accuracy.

The controllers can operate as stand-alone devices to expand the capabilities of the platform while taking advantage of the modularity and flexibility of the NI C Series platform and NI LabVIEW system design software. A controller system is composed of an embedded controller, up to eight I/O module slots, C Series I/O modules, an OS, and software. The controller includes a powerful Intel dual-core processor to run an embedded OS and a hard disk drive with up to 32 GB of nonvolatile storage for data logging. In addition to the onboard storage, the controllers also offer removable SD storage to easily save and access your data. The controllers offer module options with integrated signal conditioning for almost any sensor type as well as standard connectivity such as USB, Ethernet, CAN/LIN, and RS232 serial for expansion I/O and other third-party peripheral devices.

Figure 1. NI CompactDAQ controllers are composed of I/O module slots, an embedded processor, C Series I/O modules, software, and optional peripherals.

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2. High-Performance Multicore Processing

NI CompactDAQ controllers feature a dual-core Intel processor for intense processing tasks. With multicore processors, you can execute independent tasks, or threads, simultaneously to drastically reduce the time required to perform operations. LabVIEW makes it easy to develop an application that takes advantage of this multicore technology by automatically dividing each operation into multiple threads. The complex task of thread management within the processor is transparently built into graphical programming.

  cDAQ-9132 cDAQ-9134 cDAQ-9138 cDAQ-9139
Clock Frequency 1.33 GHz 1.33 GHz 1.06 GHz 1.33 GHz/2.4 GHz (Turbo)
Cores/Parallel Threads 2/2 2/2 2/2 2/4
Hyper-Threading No No No Yes
Turbo Boost No No No Yes
Active Management Technology (AMT) No No No Yes

Table 1. NI CompactDAQ controllers use advanced dual-core Intel processors.

To enhance the performance and functionality of your NI CompactDAQ application, Intel processors offer several technologies:

  • Intel Hyper-Threading improves multicore performance by giving each processor core the ability to execute two threads in parallel, doubling the number of apparent processor cores available to software. This allows applications running on the NI cDAQ-9139 to execute four threads in parallel, further increasing performance.
  • Intel Turbo Boost provides increased processor clock frequency during times of high workload. When your application calls for faster clock frequencies during intense calculations, the processor’s clock frequency automatically increases at regular increments until demand is met, or until factors such as temperature and load on other processor cores cause the clock speed to reduce back to its base operating frequency. This ensures that you always get the maximum performance while keeping the processor within its designed safety limits.
  • Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) gives advanced users the ability to remotely manage their NI CompactDAQ systems. This low-level hardware access is performed via the primary Ethernet interface and allows the remote user to power up or down their NI CompactDAQ system, check the current system status, redirect the console output to the remote user, and many other management tasks without any interaction with the NI CompactDAQ software.

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3. Embedded OSs

NI CompactDAQ controllers feature a NI CompactDAQ chassis with an integrated processor to run embedded OSs. You can use Windows Embedded Standard 7 (WES7) for an extensive ecosystem of software and a familiar user experience or choose LabVIEW Real-Time for headless operation and increased reliability.


Reliability is critical to guarantee that an application runs correctly for an extended time, which is needed for many embedded applications. Both WES7 and LabVIEW Real-Time have features and properties that make them a good choice for tasks requiring extended operation. WES7 also gives you the ability to use the extensive Windows software ecosystem and the LabVIEW for Windows platform. Using WES7, you can take advantage of functions found in .NET assemblies, ActiveX controls, and DLLs; or directly connect to a remote database for logging with ease. Additionally, you can use the built-in VGA or miniDisplay outputs to implement your user interface, which reduces system costs and maintenance requirements by eliminating the need for a dedicated user interface computer.

LabVIEW Real-Time

Real-Time OS components have been reduced to the minimum required, decreasing the probability of system failure due to crashes and other unforeseen problems. General-purpose OSs must attempt to provide resources and execution time to many different applications. Each additional application increases the opportunity and frequency of system failure. LabVIEW Real-Time also has features, such as the Reliance file system and watchdog timers, that further ensure application reliability over an extended time. The Reliance file system by Datalight is designed for embedded systems that require high reliability. It provides immunity to file corruption that results from system events such as unexpected power loss. Watchdog timers ensure that, in the event of an application failure, a system can be brought back to an operating state quickly and automatically.

With the new NI Linux Real-Time OS found on the NI cDAQ-9132 and cDAQ-9134 controllers, real-time operations can also now take advantage of live display. By using the built in miniDisplay port on the controllers you can connect directly to a screen or human machine interface (HMI), which eliminates the need for a dedicated user interface computer.

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4. Measurements Timing and Synchronization

Because NI CompactDAQ is a modular system, you can add more measurement types and channels to the system by simply plugging in additional modules. All modules are hot-swappable and are automatically detected when you insert them into an NI CompactDAQ chassis. Modules are automatically synchronized, and a single NI CompactDAQ system can simultaneously stream high-speed analog input, analog output, digital input, and digital output at the same time.

The analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is a vital piece of any measurement system. ADCs need clock signals to designate when samples are to be acquired. Many systems have multiple ADCs that share the same clock to synchronize all of the channels’ measurements. NI CompactDAQ systems have the advantage of flexibility when it comes to timing engines and go beyond this standard synchronization.

Multiple Timing Engines for Multiple Rates

NI CompactDAQ chassis have three analog input timing engines. You can divide all your analog inputs in up to three different groups known as “tasks.” Each task can run at a separate rate, as seen in Figure 2. This is ideal when combining temperature measurements, which are often slow, with higher speed measurements such as sound and vibration. The three tasks operate independently but can be started simultaneously. All channels within a single task are automatically synchronized and returned at the requested rate. All modules can be combined in a single task to easily synchronize all channels to the same clock.


Figure 2. This image depicts different analog input tasks running at different rates in the same chassis.

Designated Timing Engines for Analog and Digital Output

NI CompactDAQ was designed to perform up to seven tasks simultaneously. You can choose from several task options:

    • Analog input with up to three timing engines
    • Analog output with designated timing engine
    • Digital input with designated timing engine
    • Digital output with designated timing engine
    • Counter/timer tasks for quadrature, PWM, event, period, or frequency measurement

By having a designated resource, digital and analog output tasks can run independently without having to share a clock signal from another task. This makes the programming easier and more intuitive. The multiple timing engines and ability to route and share resources provide a level of flexibility to NI CompactDAQ unequaled by most off-the-shelf data acquisition systems.

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5. C Series I/O Channel Expansion

NI CompactDAQ controllers can provide up to eight slots of integrated C Series I/O capacity that you can increase with various C Series I/O expansion options. The NI CompactDAQ platform includes chassis that can stream directly to NI CompactDAQ controllers with USB, Ethernet, and wireless options. (Note: Windows-based systems support all NI CompactDAQ expansion options while systems running LabVIEW Real-Time only support USB for expansion I/O.)

With these expansion methods, you can incorporate any combination of over 50 measurement-specific C Series I/O modules. With this wide selection of measurement modules, you can tailor your system to your exact I/O requirements.

Figure 3. The NI CompactDAQ platform includes 1-, 4-, and 8-slot chassis options for expansion.

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6. Integrating Displays and External Devices

Creating an HMI is an important step when developing any embedded or industrial system. NI CompactDAQ controllers include integrated VGA graphics or miniDisplayPort, which greatly simplify HMI development. Using WES7 or NI Linux Real-Time and a monitor or flat panel touch screen, you can develop your LabVIEW application and use its front panel as your user interface. This not only reduces development time by eliminating the development of a separate HMI application, but also reduces cost by replacing the additional PC or touch panel computer with a low-cost monitor. Alternatively, you can use NI Data Dashboard for iOS and Android mobile devices to control and monitor your system from your smartphone or tablet on the go.


Figure 4. Directly connect an HMI or configure a mobile device to monitor and interact with stand-alone NI CompactDAQ.

NI CompactDAQ controllers are ideal for applications that involve synchronized video and measurements. Use the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect to a range of GigE Vision cameras and perform fast, high-resolution image acquisition and processing tasks with both LabVIEW Real-Time and WES7. Take advantage of the high-performance NI-IMAQdx driver and hundreds of algorithms in the NI Vision Development Module imaging library to develop vision applications that involve tasks such as image enhancement, pattern matching, and object measurement.

Figure 5. Use the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect to a range of GigE Vision cameras.

Connect to a wide array of additional hardware through the large selection of connectivity options on NI CompactDAQ controllers. Use the Hi-Speed USB ports to connect to peripherals such as a keyboard or mouse, or use it to log data to an external storage medium. Choose either the RS232 or RS485/422 serial port to connect to a multitude of devices such as a GPS. Use the integrated CAN/LIN port to communicate over the protocol to a wide variety of devices.

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7. Software

No measurement system is complete without software. You can use LabVIEW system design software to completely customize your stand-alone measurement system. LabVIEW gives you a single environment in which to acquire, analyze, and present your data and it abstracts low-level programming calls. This abstraction means LabVIEW, in combination with the NI-DAQmx driver, can adapt to changing requirements and technologies over time to help you keep your application on pace with the rest of the industry.

In LabVIEW, NI offers data-logging examples, templates, and sample projects for NI CompactDAQ controllers to complement the hundreds of NI-DAQmx examples already available. These options provide different starting points for novice programmers interested in seeing measurements fast, and experienced programmers seeking scalable software architectures designed and recommended by LabVIEW developers. With tools and features focused on user proficiency, LabVIEW helps engineers and scientist of all levels to innovate faster.

Users who want a turnkey solution can choose configuration-based software from the LabVIEW Tools Network or take advantage of over 600 companies in the NI Alliance Partner Network for a custom solution. These partners specialize in integration and customization services with LabVIEW and NI DAQ products. No matter the application size, complexity, or need for customization, there is a software solution to meet the needs of programmers and nonprogrammers.

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8. Related Links

Read about the advantages of NI CompactDAQ controllers
Download technical resources about NI CompactDAQ controllers
Compare NI CompactDAQ and CompactRIO

The registered trademark Linux® is used pursuant to a sublicense from LMI, the exclusive licensee of Linus Torvalds, owner of the mark on a worldwide basis.

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