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Group backs plug-and-play sensors standard

01 September, 2002

Group backs plug-and-play sensors standard

More than a dozen US companies have joined forces to promote an open standard for analogue sensors which, they say, will make it as easy to integrate sensors as plugging a mouse into a PC.

The Plug and Play Sensors Program includes sensor suppliers such as Celesco, Lebow, Kistler and Measurement Technologies, as well as the PC instrumentation specialist National Instruments.

They plan to encourage widespread adoption of a proposed standard, IEEE P1451.1. This specifies that sensors should include a memory chip containing standard transducer electronic data sheets (TEDS) which store data about the sensor, including parameters for self-description and self-identification.

This approach will eliminate the need to enter such data manually when configuring a system. The result will be that automation systems will configure themselves automatically for the sensors, making data acquisition systems easier to set up and maintain.

"Our customers have long needed these `intelligent` sensors to automate the calibration of data input," says Martin Armson, marketing director for one of the sensor manufacturers, Sensotec. The standard embedded TEDS information will not only cut configuration time, but will also increase the reliability and integrity of systems by reducing human error, he contends.

As part of the initiative, the member companies are exploring how to extend the plug-and-play capabilities to existing sensors. They are planning to create an online database of sensor data that users will be able to download as TEDS files to make their systems plug-and-play.

One of the initiative`s members, National Instruments, has launched a pair of engineering tools designed to integrate plug-and-play sensors with computer-based data acquisition systems. One is a TEDS library that allows users of NI`s LabView product to implement TEDS management functions in LabView applications. The other is a kit for developing, evaluating and using technologies based on the IEEE P1451.1 specification.

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