Ethernet Data Acquisition—An Independent Evaluation

With all the interest in the Ethernet port on today’s computers, it only seems natural for someone to ask “Why not use it for data acquisition?” Well, several companies now produce data acquisition units to accommodate Ethernet data transfer. For example, Keithley offers the Smartlink line, and Intelligent Instrumentation has the EDAS-1000 Series.

We became interested in the EDAS-1002E-2A and obtained a starter kit with everything needed for an evaluation. It consisted of the EDAS-1002E-2A Ethernet Data Acquisition System, a termination panel, a power adapter, cables, documentation, and software. It is small, compact, and portable—9″ × 5″ × 1″ and 21 oz (Figure 1). It could be easily stashed in a briefcase or laptop case and taken on the road. This was done several times during the course of our evaluation.

The EDAS-1000 Series includes the EDAS-1001E-2A with 32 programmable digital I/O channels and the EDAS-1002E-2A, a multifunctional Ethernet data acquisition system with 16 single-ended or eight differential, 12-bit-resolution analog input channels, two 12-bit analog outputs, eight digital inputs, eight digital outputs, a programmable 16-bit counter, an RS-232 port, an RS-485 port, and a 10Base-T Ethernet port (Figure 2).

The analog inputs can be configured through software control as 16 single-ended or eight differential input channels with gains of 1, 10, and 100 and voltage ranges of 0 to 10 V and ±10 V. A rate generator allows analog input rates from 0.001 Hz to 100 kHz. The analog outputs have a range of ±10 V.

The digital I/Os are TTL-compatible and programmable in two 8-bit ports, one input and one output. The inputs can be used to read digital status, detect state changes, and count events up to 250 Hz. The outputs can be operated in an on/off state or programmed with delay times and on/off times for controlling and timing applications.

The high-speed, 16-bit counter is used with any one of the digital input lines. It can count TTL level signals up to 250 kHz or make direct frequency measurements.

The RS-232 port has two functions. It is used locally to configure the EDAS Ethernet parameters. It also can control and monitor RS-232 instruments or devices. The RS-485 port can be used for controlling and monitoring RS-485 devices.

The Approach

We decided to concentrate the initial evaluation on the use of the EDAS with Ethernet rather than on its available data acquisition features. Even so, most of its capabilities were examined.

First, the EDAS was used locally with an AMS Tech laptop computer with Windows 98. Then, it was connected through an Ethernet hub to a local area network that had both 10Base-T and 10Base-2 nets and an internet connection (Figure 3). It was used with Windows 95 and 98 as well as Windows NT. EDAS also supports DOS and Windows 3.1, but these modes of operation were not tried.

The EDAS has support libraries for both Intelligent Instrumentation’s Visual Designer and National Instruments’ LabVIEW. Both of these were used with the EDAS. Also provided was a C/C++ library, which was not included in the evaluation.

Configuring the System

The EDAS-1002E was connected to a 233-MHz AMS Tech Pentium laptop with Windows 98 via the RS-232 port and the null modem cable. The serial port was set to the EDAS default of 9,600 baud, eight data bits, one stop bit, no parity, and no handshake.

The SYSCHECK program was installed and run on the laptop. The program was simple and easy to understand. Only occasional references were made to the documentation, and the EDAS was quickly configured. The Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were set to for the EDAS and for a fictitious gateway (Figure 4).

These addresses were chosen from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) list of reserved IP addresses for private networks. These addresses are filtered by internet routers and do not have to be globally unique.

A system check was performed over the RS-232, and everything seemed to work as it should. The laptop was given an address of, also from the IANA list, and connected to the EDAS via a 10Base-T cable and a crossover adapter. To our surprise, no Ethernet connection could be established.

After much experimenting, it was discovered that the laptop computer, which had no gateway address assigned, had to be given the same gateway address as the EDAS even though the gateway was fictitious and didn’t really exist. The reason for this was not pursued further.

Once network communications were established, testing continued. All of the EDAS functions were tested using SYSCHECK over the Ethernet connection, and everything worked.

Visual Designer Library

Included in the evaluation package was a demonstration CD ROM version of Intelligent Instrumentation’s Visual Designer. Visual Designer is a graphical programming language in which icons that represent functions, such as analog input, are inserted into a diagram using drag and drop. Then the data paths are inserted from one icon to another.

Once the diagram is complete, it is executed by clicking on the run button of the tool bar. The application development process is easily learned with little reference to the documentation.

The evaluation program included in the kit was a complete 32-bit version of Visual Designer that could be used for developing data acquisition applications. These applications, however, would only execute for three minutes at a time. Then they would have to be restarted with the run button of the tool bar. This was only slightly inconvenient and did not cause any major problems with the evaluation.

The nine EDAS Visual Designer icons were multifunctional. Each had to be configured, not only for which series of EDAS it represented, but also for the many parameters that it needed.

For example, if the digital input icon were chosen, you would have to double- click on the icon to bring up the parameters dialog box. Then the correct EDAS series would be chosen and the IP address entered. This had to be done each time an icon was inserted and was somewhat annoying. When the icon was wired to another icon, additional parameters had to be given.

Example application diagrams for the EDAS were included in the EDAS Visual Designer Support Library Manual. All of these easily understood examples were entered and executed to test some of the functions of the EDAS.

Additional programs were developed to check many other capabilities of EDAS. The analog inputs were checked with a function generator using sine, square, and sawtooth waves of various amplitudes. DC voltage levels, as well as various voltage patterns and waves, were generated and measured from the analog output channels. Everything worked perfectly.

The RS-232 serial port of the EDAS was connected to an ADAM-4018M thermocouple unit connected to an ADAM-4520 RS-422-to-RS-232 converter. A Visual Designer program was created, and temperatures were measured, plotted, and logged. This entire operation took less than 15 minutes to accomplish.

Virtual Instrument Support Library for LabVIEW

The EDAS Support Library for LabVIEW 4.0 or higher contained a configuration utility, nine example programs, and 45 low-level virtual-instrument (VI) icons. The installation from a 3½-inch floppy disk was typical of all Windows installations and easily done without problems.

You must have already installed LabVIEW on the computer before installing the Support Library. A WINSOCK.DLL had to be in the path, and TCP/IP had to be functionally active so the EDAS block would load and function properly.

The configuration utility looked very much like SYSCHECK, except that there were no built-in routines for checking out the various system functions (Figure 5). It was executed from LabVIEW and used to configure the IP addresses of the EDAS and the gateway and set the subnet address.

There was only one drawback. When we exited the program, we also exited from LabVIEW—so we had to enter LabVIEW again.

All of the EDAS capabilities were covered in the nine example programs:

Alarm—demonstrates the various alarm modes of the EDAS.

Analog Input—demonstrates how to acquire data from multiple analog input channels.

Analog Output—demonstrates how to write data to analog output channels.

High-Speed Analog Input—demonstrates how to perform multiple channel high-speed analog inputs.

Digital Input Bit—demonstrates how to use digital input port bits: normal (unlatched), falling edge latched, rising edge latched, up counter, down counter, event counter, frequency counter, and change-of-state latch.

Digital Output Bit—demonstrates how to use digital output port bits: normal, pulse low, pulse high, delay low, delay high, and square wave.

Digital I/O—demonstrates how to read and write digital I/O data.

Serial I/O—demonstrates how to send and receive data via the RS-232 or RS-485 serial ports.

Thermocouple—demonstrates how to make temperature measurements using Type J, K, or T thermocouples.

Most of the example programs were multifunctional in nature. This led to some confusion at first because there were so many parameters to set. Some parameters were used only for one function, and others were only used for another function.

All of the example programs were executed with only minor difficulty. The troubles actually were misunderstandings easily overcome by examining the program’s diagram or reading the documentation.

Most of the 45 functional VIs had multiple inputs and outputs, making programming with LabVIEW more involved and complicated than with Visual Designer. As can be seen in Table 1, there are 16 categories of VIs. Each VI had on-line help available by right-clicking on its icon and selecting On-line Help from the menu.

The four functions in the Initialization Functions and the Network Command Functions categories must be included in each program, regardless of the data acquisition or I/O performed. Partial diagrams of the required initialization and de-initialization process are given in the documentation. It was easy to implement these diagrams and copy them into each program written.

EDAS Documentation

The EDAS documentation was very complete. It consisted of two booklets and four manuals.

The first booklet, Factory View–Real-Time Interactive Data Access Solutions, was an overview of all Intelligent Instrumentation’s hardware and software products. It also contained a CD ROM with even more detailed information about the company’s products and the evaluation version of Visual Designer. The other booklet described all of the EDAS modules, their specifications, capabilities, software support, and accessories.

The EDAS User Manual had documentation for all of the EDAS systems. It explained how to install, configure, and use each system and contained example programs using Visual Designer.

“Appendix C, TCP/IP Reference Information” was especially helpful. Even with no knowledge of TCP/IP and networking, you could configure EDAS and your PC and have them communicating in very little time. This appendix also contained a useful list of web sites for additional information and help.

The Net Link Software Libraries Reference Manual documents the high-level language support for the EDAS series. Net Link is a run-time library that provides client functions for EDAS systems. It can be linked with DOS, Windows, or UNIX application programs written in C/C++ and Microsoft Visual Basic under Windows.

The Win32 version of the Net Link Software Library supports Borland C++, Microsoft Visual C++, and Visual Basic. As stated earlier, this library and its manual were not evaluated.

The EDAS Visual Designer Support Library Reference Manual is a detailed reference for all Visual Designer function blocks for EDAS. It covers the software library installation and the use of its nine function blocks. It contains the same four examples that are in the EDAS User Manual plus an additional one.

The EDAS Virtual Instrument (VI) Support Library for National Instruments LabVIEW Software User and Reference Manual gives a complete description of the 45 VIs used with the EDAS. The EDAS Support Library provides VI functions for EDAS for LabVIEW 4.0 and higher running under Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT.

It would have been nice to have a description of the example programs included with the libraries. The on-line help was more useful than the reference manual.

All of the manuals were well written and easy to understand. Each had a table of contents and an index. All except the Visual Designer reference manual had appendices. In reading the manuals, no errors were noted. The Visual Designer and the LabVIEW reference manuals would have benefited from the use of color, especially in the wiring diagrams.


The EDAS-1002E-2A is well designed and constructed, although the cantilevered terminal board was worrisome. It was easy to configure and use, especially with Visual Designer. It performed every task attempted. Multiple users could access data via Ethernet, or the EDAS could be told to lock out other users.

The documentation was well written. The software support was excellent. User support was prompt both by phone and e-mail. It would make a worthwhile addition to any group contemplating data acquisition or control using Ethernet.


This article was written by the authors as private individuals and not in conjunction with JPL.

About the Authors

James W. McGregor is the technical group supervisor of the Measurement Systems Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Mr. McGregor graduated from Mississippi State University with a B.S. in science and mathematics. He received an M.S. in physics from the University of Mississippi and was a Shell Merit Fellow in Physics at Leland Stanford Jr. University.

Copyright 1999 Nelson Publishing Inc.

Ed C. Baroth is the technical manager of the Measurement Technology Center at JPL. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from City College of New York and master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from University of California, Berkeley. (818) 354-8339, e-mail: [email protected].

John Burns is the owner and operator of Software Research, a company that specializes in custom computer-system integration. He also is a consultant to JPL. Software Research, 1150 E. Lancaster Blvd., Lancaster, CA 93535, (805) 945-1133.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109.

January 1999

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