1. Three Clicks to Data
The following sequence begins once you power on any (non-legacy) NI USB device and plug it into a PC on which NI-DAQmx has been installed.
Figure 1. First Click from Device Detection Screen
Once NI CompactDAQ is connected to the PC and powered on, the NI Device Monitor launches (Figure 1), which gives you multiple options. Click “OK” to “Begin a Measurement with This Device Using NI LabVIEW SignalExpress.” This launches a graphical interface designed specifically for NI CompactDAQ to make setup easier.
Figure 2. NI CompactDAQ User Interface to LabVIEW SignalExpress with Clicks 2 and 3
This user interface (Figure 2) dynamically loads images of the specific modules you have installed in your NI CompactDAQ chassis. To begin taking a measurement, select one or more modulesand click on “OK”.
These three clicks take you to the setup screen in LabVIEW SignalExpress (Figure 3) where, based on the module type you select, the software has already configured your measurement and is taking data. You can change this configuration while your data is running, which makes it easier to set up sensors such as thermocouples, strain gages, and other transducers that require multiple settings.
Figure 3. LabVIEW SignalExpress Configuration Screen
Because the module (NI 9234) selected in these screenshots is mainly for accelerometers, LabVIEW SignalExpress has set up the measurement for an accelerometer and started taking measurements. You can see in the chart on the top of the window the vibration data from the module. Each color represents a different channel on the module. From here, you can add or remove channels, modify the settings for your accelerometer, or continue to log your data to disk. For more information and a free download of LabVIEW SignalExpress software, go to ni.com/signalexpress.
2. "Plug and Play" Defined
The term “plug and play” has origins in earlier computer components where internal boards moved from jumper settings to jumperless setups that required software on the back end to do the configuration. This term then caught on with operating systems and, with the advent of the USB standard, was adopted and marketed with peripherals that were USB-compliant due to their self-configuration and overall ease of use.
Nowadays, it seems any instrumentation vendor can take an instrument or device, add a USB port, and call it plug and play. Though there is debate as to the exact definition of the “plug and play” phrase, there is little debate when it comes to the resultant experiences. An instrument that does little more than self-identification hardly lives up to the expectation that most users have when they think of USB devices.
3. The True Plug-and-Play Difference
National Instruments goes beyond not only the technical definition of plug and play but also other USB vendors' definition of the term. In the screenshots below, you can see what happens when you plug in a National Instruments USB device (Figure 4) versus one from a competitor (Figure 5). With NI USB, the device is automatically detected and configured, and you have several options to help you get started. With these options, you can do the following:
- Open the configuration utility, Measurement & Automation Explorer (MAX), to view all devices connected to your system.
- View a test panel for the USB device you just plugged in to see an instant measurement. Use this to test/debug signal connections instantly.
- Begin development with the included LabVIEW SignalExpress data-logging software package or, if installed, begin development with the LabVIEW graphical programming environment.
- Do nothing. As you would expect from any commercial USB device, you can select this option along with “always take this action” to avoid these prompts again.
By comparison, you can see that the USB context menu for the competitors' USB data acquisition device only queries the device to ensure proper operation and falls short of integrating the hardware driver with data-logging software or development environments.
Figure 4. NI USB Detection Figure 5. Competitors' USB Detection
National Instruments designed LabVIEW SignalExpress and NI CompactDAQ with ease of use in mind. The section below describes the seamless interaction of LabVIEW SignalExpress with NI CompactDAQ. When an NI CompactDAQ chassis is plugged into a USB port, an image appears (Figure 6) showing the specific type and location of all modules installed in the chassis. The chassis in Figure 6 contains a variety of modules. You can select specific modules in the image, click on “OK,” and immediately be taken to the LabVIEW SignalExpress setup screen with live data already running in the background. This is another example of a true plug-and-play experience designed by NI.
Figure 6. NI CompactDAQ Device Detection
4. True Plug-and-Play Benefits
The goal of the true plug-and-play experience from NI is for you to focus less on the hardware and software you are using and more on the measurements and tests you are trying to perform. For new users, this true plug-and-play experience helps guide them to where they need to be to view, analyze, and log data while spending less time reading help files, manuals, or data sheets. New and experienced users alike benefit from the reduced time to first measurement. With a true plug-and-play experience from NI, you work with the data from your device in three mouse clicks and even fewer clicks with the auto launch feature.
5. Which NI USB Devices Offer This True Plug-and-Play Experience?
National Instruments USB DAQ devices use the NI-DAQmx driver, which provides the hardware/software integration as well as the true plug-and-play experience. These USB devices range from the small, bus-powered multifunction I/O devices, such as the NI USB-6008, all the way up to the rugged, portable, modular NI CompactDAQ system that offers signal streaming at more than 5 MS/s and compatibility with more than 50 different NI C Series measurement modules.
You can find more compatible devices on the NI USB Data Acquisition Product Page.
6. Related Product Information and Pricing
See the software in action and learn more about data logging with NI LabVIEW SignalExpress.
Download the LabVIEW SignalExpress evaluation software for a 30-day trial period.
Configure and price your complete data acquisition system with the NI CompactDAQ Advisor.