Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-2 - 49

Fig. 2. Sketch of a design process for a sensor system.

created. During all three phases, additional information is
added to the datasheet until the last step when a datasheet is
created for each instance of the sensor where individual information like calibration information is added.

Use of an Electronic Datasheet and
Virtual Transducers in the Design
Process
As described, the TEDS becomes a more and more detailed
specification of the actual device during the development cycle. Thus, it can be used for documentation and information
exchange. However, there is more potential to benefit from an
electronic datasheet: as it is already available in the beginning
of the design phase, it can also help to ease connectivity and
transitions between phases. Such a use of a TEDS is illustrated
in an example workflow (Fig. 3). The NCAP plays a central role.
Through the web interface of an NCAP with corresponding extension (Fig. 1), it is possible to upload a TEDS to it. The NCAP
automatically creates a "virtual transducer" out of the TEDS.
This virtual transducer can already be used as any other
transducer that is connected to the NCAP, i.e., one can write to
transducer channels or read from sensor channels. The sensor
channels of the virtual transducer initially generate random
data based on the specification in the TEDS, i.e., within the
given range, at given measurement rate, given data format,
etc. This allows the automation software to already be implemented and tested with this random data.
April 2020	

In a next step, the behavior of the virtual sensor can be refined. One approach is to provide a script for data generation
for the described transducer. The NCAP provides a template
for this based on the information in the TEDS. The template
is then completed with code to generate more realistic data,
e.g., by connecting to simulation environments. Similarly, the
legacy device can also be included into the environment. For
example, in our lab we can a include a climate chamber in this
way, which becomes a transducer, and the controls for temperature and humidity are represented by an actuators channel
and the corresponding measurements as sensor channels of
a virtual IEEE 1451 transducer. An alternative approach to
scripts uses an API similar to 1451.4 for connections to simulation environments and legacy devices. This offers several
advantages, e.g., with respect to security, and is therefore a focus of ongoing work.
Once developers and users agree on the behavior based
on simulated data, a next level is usually a physical demonstrator setup. Eventually, a final productive system gets
implemented.
With this process, the developers benefit as it is not necessary to modify the NCAP in any phase of the development
cycle. The automation software can also remain unchanged
(unless requirements on the side of the automation systems
are changed) after the initial implementation and initial tests
based on a virtual transducer have been completed. Consequently, switching and cycling between design phases

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	49



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