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Computer-controlled data acquisition systems (that is, computer hardware and software system used to collect real world scientific data) are typically self-contained systems accessible only to investigators physically present at the data collection site. However, distributed computing technology allows access such systems througth computer networks, supporting both remote observation of experiments and remote control of hardware and software.

Remote observation is valutable whether it takes place in "real time" mode (that is, collected in the experiment is streamed to the remote site) or in the "store-and-forward" mode (the collected data is stored as a file then sent asynchronously to the remote site). The several mode is particularly useful when coordinating remote viewers over several time zones with a collection site. However, certain kinds of data, experiment on the particular scientific support, are most meaningful when viewed in real time, so a store-and-forward data acquisition system should support a "playback" mode, in which remote observers can recrate the original data collection.

No matter which mode is used, distributed data acquisition makes possible the collection of data from extreme environments (such as space), and can also improve collaboration among geographically dispersed scientific communities by distributin scientific results more quickly and less expensively than most other methods. However, problems arise when the acquired data is of a sensitive or classified nature and must be protected from unauthorized viewing. Private networks based on satellite technology or "closed-path" nethworks can protect distributed data's confidentiality, but such networks are expensive to create and difficult to maintain. Public networks, the most videly used of which is the Internet , are less expensive, widely accessible, and easy for non-expert to use, but they are notoriously insecure. While mechanisms would affect the acquisiton ad delivery of scientific data to remote observers.

The Automatic Control Telelab, support real-time configuration and observation of experiments, as well as playback access to acquired data, from remote computer linked to a collection site through the Internet.

Architecture of the Automatic Control Telelab

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