The ramping trend of cheap and performant single board computers (SBC) is growingly offering unprecedented opportunities in various domains, taking advantage of the widespread support and flexibility offered by an operating system (OS) environment. Unfortunately, data acquisition systems implemented in an OS environment are traditionally considered not to be suitable for reliable industrial applications. Such a position is supported by the lack of hardware interrupt handling and deterministic control of timed operations. In this study, the authors fill this gap by proposing an innovative and versatile SBC-based open-source platform for CPU-independent data acquisition. The synchronized measurement unit (SMU) is a high-accuracy device able to perform multichannel simultaneous sampling up to 200 kS/s with sub-microsecond synchronization precision to a GPS time reference. It exhibits very low offset and gain errors, with a minimum bandwidth beyond 20 kHz, SNR levels above 90 dB and THD as low as -110 dB. These features make the SMU particularly attractive for the power system domain, where synchronized measurements are increasingly required for the geographically distributed monitoring of grid operating conditions and power quality phenomena. We present the characterization of the SMU in terms of measurement and time synchronization accuracy, proving that this device, while low-cost, guarantees performance compliant with the requirements for synchrophasor-based applications in power systems.
Keywords: data acquisition systems; distributed monitoring; low-cost measurement units; phasor measurement unit; single-board computer; synchronized measurements.