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New Study Evaluates Data Acquisition Market

July 10, 2008

VDC identifies product trends and user needs in the areas of external chassis and modules and plug-in analog I/O boards.


Natick, Massachusetts -- A recently completed market study from Venture Development Corp. (VDC), "Data Acquisition Products Global Market Demand Analysis," 2nd Edition, explores user needs and product trends in external chassis and modules and plug-in analog I/O boards. The most significant findings were about product-selection criteria and trends regarding resolution, input channels, operating systems, and communication interfaces.

Products covered in the study were:

External Chassis and Modules—data loggers, distributed/remote I/O, paperless chart recorders, USB PC front-end modules, other PC front ends, and standalone systems.

Plug-In Analog I/0 Board Types—CAMAC, CompactPCI, ISA, PC/104, PCI, PCI Express, PCMCIA (PC Cards), PXI, PXI Express, VME, and VXI.

As part of the study, users were asked to identify their most important product-selection criteria for the products. Most identified (ranked in descending order) were:

External Chassis and Modules

  • Accuracy
  • Ease of use
  • Durability/ruggedness
  • Number of channels
  • Communication network capabilities

Plug-In Analog I/O Boards

  • Accuracy
  • Ease of use
  • Number of channels
  • Compatibility with operating system
  • Reliability

The following are expected trends in several areas:

Accuracy and Resolution
One element of accuracy is A/D converter resolution. The study found most of the worldwide shipments of these products to have A/D converters with 12- or 16-bit resolution. However, there is a trend toward even higher resolutions. VDC forecasts that five years from now 28% of the external chassis and module product and 9% of the plug-in analog I/O board worldwide shipments will be using A/D converters with higher than 18-bit resolution.

Many purchasers seem to equate resolution directly with accuracy—reasoning that the better the resolution, the higher the accuracy. Thus, if they can afford the higher resolution units, they will purchase these. Declining prices for the higher resolution products are helping this trend.

Input Channels
VDC found the worldwide market for the data acquisition products under study shifting to those with more input channels. There are growing user requirements to collect and analyze more data with their data acquisition equipment. In addition, the ability of vendors to reduce prices per channel is making this equipment easier to justify in a wide range of applications.

The VDC study found the majority of worldwide external chassis and modules and plug-in analog I/O board shipments to consist of products with 20 or less input channels. However, the shipment share for these is expected to decline between 9% and 10% over the next five years, with share increases for products with more input channels.

Operating Systems
VDC found Microsoft operating systems to be predominantly used in data acquisition applications, and currently, the most popular of these is Windows XP. Linux was found to be the most popular of the non-Microsoft operating systems, but the study found these operating systems are used by only a small percentage of the respondents.

Uses of all the current generation Windows operating systems, except for Vista, are expected to decline, with the sharpest forecast decline for Windows XP over the next four years. However, expectations are that most users will be shifting to a new generation Microsoft operating system.

VDC also found that a growing number of users will be shifting to Linux. Some expect to move away from Microsoft operating systems to reduce costs and because of the company's tendency to introduce new systems rather than update existing systems.

Communication Interfaces
VDC found that USB, RS 232 Serial, 100 Mbps Ethernet, Ethernet/IP, and 10 Mbps Ethernet are the most popular networks for use with external data acquisition chassis and modules. USB, 100 Mbps Ethernet, 1 Gbps Ethernet, and Ethernet/IP are expected to be the most popular in 2012. RS 232 and 10 Mbps Ethernet are expected to have the largest declines in popularity, with 1 Gbps Ethernet and wireless IEEE 802.11n the largest increases.

User-cited reasons for the expected trends included:

Between wireline networks:

  • From RS-232 serial devices as these become obsolete to USB, which is fast and flexible
  • To Ethernet with broader availability of products
  • To faster networks due to large data sets to be transferred
  • To faster networks with increased throughput: 1 Gbps Ethernet, fiber channel, and Firewire.

To wireless connectivity:

  • Easier monitoring
  • Fewer wireline networking outlets in labs
  • Shifting to wireless to avoid cabling costs

Between wireless networks:

  • Will use faster networks as products become available
  • To higher speed/bandwidth networks: IEEE 802.11n and WIMAX.

Obtaining higher speed/throughput capability is a general theme, with the limitation being primarily the availability of products. There is also a clear desire by many to go wireless to eliminate wiring, provide ease of setup, and provide flexibility in usage.

About VDC
Venture Development Corp. (VDC) is a technology market research and strategy consulting firm that advises clients in a number of industrial, embedded, component, retail automation, RFID, AIDC, datacom/telecom, and defense markets. Using rigorous primary research and analysis techniques, the firm helps its clients identify, plan for, and capitalize on current and emerging market opportunities. We strive to deliver exceptional value to our clients by leveraging the considerable technical, operational, educational, and professional experience of our research and consulting staff. During our nearly four decades of ongoing operation, we have had the pleasure of serving most of the world's leading technology companies, many high-profile startups, and numerous blue-chip early and later stage investors. Our products and services consist of research reports, annual research programs, and custom research and consulting services. Founded in 1971, the firm is located in the Boston area.


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