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Digital input signals are used to represent items that only have two (2) states, such as... ON (binary 1) or OFF (binary 0) states. Similarly, Digital output signals are used to control items that again only have two states, such as.. START or STOP a device.

So, a digital signal is something like telling if a door is open or not.

Analog signals are variable, they have multiple states. Analog input signals can represent such items as temperature or level or rate of flow. Analog output signals are also variable and can be used for such things as opening a valve to a desired position.

Then, an analog signal is something like telling how much the door is open (or closed).

In our day to day life, we mainly do analog measurements and all analog signals includes the digital ones like a door is 0%=closed or 100%=open. However, digital signals are more suitable for computers (PC/PLC, etc).

An analog signal can only be read by an analog I/O, but a digital one can use both analog or digital I/Os. There is sometime a possibilities to convert an analog signal into a series of digital ones. Because, in practice, you never connect a digital signal to an analog I/O because the analog I/Os are way more expensive than digital ones.

So for a rule of thumb,

  • Whenever possible use a digital I/O, since it’s cheap.

  • In other case, use an analog I/O if the option to convert the signal in a series of digital signals isn’t possible.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them below.