What is virtual instrumentation?


What is virtual instrumentation?

Virtual instrumentation uses customisable software and measurement hardware to create user-defined measurement systems, called virtual instruments. With virtual instrumentation, engineers and scientists reduce development time, design higher quality products and reduce their design costs.

A virtual instrument provides programming and live monitoring from your virtual instrumentation software. A virtual instrument provides all the software and hardware needed to accomplish the measurement or control task.

Layers of Virtual instrumentation:

Application Software: This is the primary development environment for building an application.

Test and Data Management Software: It is above the application software layer. This layer of software incorporates all of the functionality developed by the application layer and provides system-wide data management.

Measurement and Control Services Software: The last layer is often overlooked, yet critical to maintaining software development productivity.

Virtual instrumentation Arhitecture:

A virtual instrument is composed of the following blocks:

  • Sensor Module,

  • Sensor Interface,

  • Processing Module,

  • Database Interface, and

  • User Interface.

Sensor module:

The sensor module detects physical signal and transforms it into electrical form, conditions the signal, and transforms it into a digital form for further manipulation. The sensor module interfaces a virtual instrument to the external, mostly analog world transforming measured signals into computer readable form.

Sensor interface:

There are many interfaces used for communication between sensors modules and the computer. The interfaces include wired and wireless interface.

Wired Interfaces are usually standard parallel interfaces, such as General Purpose Interface Bus
(GPIB), Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI), system buses (PCI eXtension for Instrumentation PXI or VME Extensions for Instrumentation (VXI), or serial buses.

Processing Module:

The integration of microprocessors / microcontrollers of general use allowed the flexible implementation of sophisticated processing functions. The processing function used in virtual instrumentation can be classified as analytical processing and artificial intelligence techniques.

Presentation and control

Presentation and user control should be user-friendly and easily understandable. According to presentation and interaction capabilities, we can classify interfaces used in virtual instrumentation in four groups:

  • terminal user interfaces,
  • graphical user interfaces,
  • multimodal user interfaces, and
  • virtual and augmented reality interfaces.

Advantages of Virtual instrumentation:

  • Flexibility; You can easily add additional functions such as a filter routine or a new data view to a virtual instrument.

  • Storage: Hard disks that can store dozens of gigabytes which is an absolute plus if you want to process mass data like audio or video.

  • Display: You can switch easily between different views of the data (graphical, numerical).

  • Costs: The software mostly costs a fraction of the traditional hardware they emulate.