Efficient Storage of Measurement Data Using the MDF Format

MDF (Measurement Data Format) is a binary file format for measurement data that was developed in 1991 by Vector in cooperation with Robert Bosch GmbH. After the MDF format had quickly developed into the de facto standard for the automotive industry, the revised Version 4.0 was issued in 2009, and finally it was released as an official ASAM standard. Last format update was made in 2012 with ASAM MDF 4.1.

Vector played a crucial role in developing the MDF standard, both in its original development and over many years of maintenance and advanced development to the ASAM standard. All of the experience and special automotive know-how that Vector gained in this process has resulted in comprehensive support of MDF in its products.

Openness
Vector supports this trend by open disclosure of the format (MDF specifications version 3.3). MDF 4.x has been the ASAM standard since 2009, and it is available to members at the ASAM website.

Your Benefits:

  • High performance in writing and reading measurement data
  • Compatibility with earlier MDF versions
  • Assures future compatibility by open disclosure of the specification (Version 3.3), ASAM standard since Version 4.x
  • Widely used in many currently marketed tools
  • Support of the ASAM measurement data format MDF 4.x enables writing of any desired file sizes (264 Bytes)
  • MDF 4.x permits saving of pre-sorted measurement files. This eliminates time-consuming sorting of very large measurement files at the end of measurement or when the file is initially opened.
  • You will also receive an MDF Validator, a freeware tool which can be used to visualize the structure of an MDF file and check conformity with specifications.
  • The openly available MDF ShellExtension extends your Windows Explorer with measurement data specific information, e.g. MDF project, MDF name, etc.

A significant factor contributing to the success of MDF is that it is capable of saving measurement data very efficiently, i.e. it economizes on memory space and data is saved quickly.  It is also possible to optimize read access to the data in the file. This involves converting ("sorting") the data once, e.g. the first time the file is opened. This enables indexed and thereby faster access to the data.

Details
The MDF file contains both raw measurement data acquired during a measurement and meta-data that is necessary to interpret the raw data. Meta-data might include information on converting the raw data to physical values or the ASAM-conformant signal name. The available data fields in MDF are specially oriented towards requirements of the automotive industry. You can also save your own comments or even binary data thanks to available data fields in the MDF file. You will find details on this in the specification.

In extending the MDF specification, the primary focus was on preserving compatibility. Current tools are still able to evaluate older MDF files. This, and the continuity of the MDF format have contributed to its broad acceptance.

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