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Data Management: Turning Data into Results

Data Management: Turning Data into Results

Depending on your job function or the size of your company you work for, the term "data management" can embody a wide variety of definitions. "Data storage," "data mining," and "test data management" are just a few of the many terms defining the activities surrounding data management.

From a design aspect, the iterative process of investigating whether an idea will work requires testing either via simulation and/or making measurements. If you routinely take data and work with several colleagues that do the same, it doesn't take much time to have more data than you know what to do with. At this point you are probably facing a litany of issues such as losing tests or not knowing what tests your coworkers have run.

Although data management does not necessarily imply using databases, the use of databases to manage test data is gaining wide acceptance as an efficient and effective way to improve engineering processes. If you're one of the lucky few, you have a centralized repository where all your measurement and simulation data can be stored, you have the ability to look at your data from a historical or departmental view, and you don't have to ask around the office, "Hey did anyone ever run a test with ...?" The benefits of centralized test data storage are difficult to overstate.

Having a central repository for your test data does not solve the whole problem because you still need to access the data and turn it into useable results, report it, analyze it, etc. Providing access to the data is often overlooked, with many left with primitive interfaces to extract, analyze, and report data.

National Instruments DIAdem (www.ni.com/diadem) is a software tool that takes an interactive approach to data management, visualization, analysis, and report generation. DIAdem can connect to databases (via ODBC/SQL, ADO, or ASAM ODS), read any file type, and provide filtering and navigation functions that are native to its user interface. Once you have located or queried your data through DIAdem, it is then available for you to analyze using built-in mathematical functions, visualize, and create reports.

Effectively managing test data not only refers to data storage, but also provides an intuitive way to find and interpret the data. DIAdem is designed with an engineer's needs in mind, and is a perfect complement to anyone with test data or a data management system.

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