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Software DAQ Hardware

Windows CE based devices


The following introductory information is borrowed from Microsoft information, so if it resembles a marketing blurb, that's the reason.  However, it represents a fair presentation of features.  I've written the remainder of this page so any errors of commission or omission are my own.

Microsoft ® Windows CE .NET, the successor to Windows CE 3.0, combines an advanced real-time embedded operating system with the most powerful tools for rapidly creating the next generation of smart, connected, and small-footprint devices. With a complete operating system feature set and comprehensive development tools, Windows CE .NET contains the features developers need to build, debug, and deploy customized Windows CE. NET-based devices. The platform development tool, Platform Builder, is a fully integrated development environment (IDE) and includes a software development kit (SDK) export tool. Windows CE .NET supports Microsoft eMbedded Visual C++® and Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET, providing a complete development environment for building Web services and applications for the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, a subset of the Microsoft .NET Framework on the desktop. With these tools, developers can rapidly build smart designs running rich applications on the latest hardware.

The latest version, Windows CE .NET 4.2, expands upon the solid foundation developed in previous Windows CE versions by providing:

bulletSupport for secure and scalable networking.
bulletEnhanced real-time processing.
bulletFaster performance.
bulletRicher multimedia and Web browsing capabilities.
bulletGreater interoperability with personal computers, servers, Web services, and devices.

What about other versions of Windows CE?

Microsoft continues to support Windows CE 3.0 and derivative versions, such as Microsoft Pocket PC 2000, 2002, and the newly released Pocket PC 2003.  Development for these platforms may be done using Microsoft ® eMbedded Tools 3.0 ® (Visual C++ or Visual Basic), which is freely available from Microsoft.  Pocket PC 2000/2002/2003 software may also be developed using Microsoft Visual Studio ® .NET and the Compact Framework, though this later environment cannot be used for Windows CE 3.0 or earlier.

Hardware Platforms

There are a number of platform manufacturers.  For data acquisition purposes, these may be separated into two classes.  One of these platform classes uses embedded computers based on Windows CE.  The other platform class is based on Pocket PC type devices.  Pocket PC's may be further divided into two categories ¾ "ruggedized" (typified by the Symbol 8800 series) and "personal/consumer" (such as the HP ® iPAQ, and Dell ® Axim models, with lots of others in competition).  The following table provides some vendor links.  It is not meant to be exhaustive.

Embedded Hardware Pocket PC's
Applied Data Systems Symbol Technologies, Inc.
R.L.C. Enterprises, Inc. Hewlett-Packard ( HP iPAQ)
ETC Company Dell Computer (Axim)
Ampro ViewSonic
ICP America, Inc. Toshiba
WinSystems Casio
Intelligent Control on Processor (ICOP) Two Technologies, Inc.
  Woodhead Software & Electronics

What are the advantages of these platform types? 

Pocket PC's are complete, hand-held computers.  They are battery powered and provide a small but useful UI.  In my opinion, the "killer" feature that makes Pocket PC's valuable is their ability to use wireless networking technologies.  Wireless networking may be built-in, or added on using Compact Flash or Secure Digital adapters.  802-11b networking, so called WiFi, is most prevalent, but Bluetooth is also becoming more common.   You can transfer data and files between the Pocket PC and desktop systems easily and quickly.   Take your Pocket PC into the lab or field, connect it to some system (more on this later), acquire data, then when you are back in the office, and when in range, transfer that data to a host PC for further use or for archiving.  Naturally, since the Pocket PC is a true computer, you also can write programs that use the data locally, too.

Embedded computers, on the other hand, are designed to provide real-time control for other systems (see real-time, elsewhere).  In general, one cannot say what hardware features will be available for IO.  Usually these are purpose-built for the systems where they  will be used.  The various manufacturers provide development systems that may have a superset of the features that will be needed on the target system.   Some embedded computers will have built-in data acquisition hardware, while others may use some sort of add-on hardware, either bus-based, or that connect serially or by network connection.

Data Acquisition

The primary topic.  Naturally, Windows CE devices have much less inherent data processing power (and memory) than their desktop cousins.  Thus, the amount of data processing that you can expect them to do is proportionally less.  Whether these use a 206 MHz StrongArm processor, a 200 to 400 MHz  XScale processor, or possibly are x86 based, they must be considered to offer limited capability.  If you respect this fact, these computers can be valuable platforms on which to base a data acquisition system.

See the links on the left for information that may help you with software development decisions for these data acquisition systems.


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Last modified: 11/25/09
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