Sensors have been around in this world for a long time. The very first infrared sensors date back all the way to the 1940s, while the thermostat was invented in the 1880s! Almost every industry and organization today uses sensors to accomplish tasks. This prevalence of sensors saw a significant push upon the advent of IoT (Internet of Things). This article covers seven sensors commonly used in IoT devices.
IoT is quite a complex technology, with multiple architecture layers and a grid of connected devices that interact with each other to build functional applications. Most of these IoT devices or platforms rely on sensors to pass on data or intelligence to virtual dashboards. Recent advancements in IoT technology, such as cellular IoT and LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networking), radically change how sensors are used. From periodic measurements to real-time, continuous monitoring, sensors do it all in IoT devices. Sensors not only collect data but also share it with a whole mesh of connected devices so that all of them can work together efficiently. They are the drivers behind your loT devices functioning seamlessly and autonomously and help your entire IoT system become ‘smarter’ over time.
Now, let’s learn about the various kinds of sensors commonly used in IoT devices.
#1. TEMPERATURE SENSORS:
Designed to measure the amount of heat energy in a source, temperature sensors are fine-tuned to capture the slightest fluctuations in temperature and translate this information into readable data. These sensors are standard in the healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture industries. While they were previously only used in A/C control, refrigerators, and similar devices, after the advent of IoT, they have found a much more comprehensive range of uses. For example, temperature sensors are integrated with smart homes to assist homeowners in improving their energy consumption efficiency. IoT devices such as thermostats are fitted with these sensors, and they get real-time temperature data from the house and accordingly adjust the temperature. In healthcare, temperature sensors enable non-contact temperature measurement. IoT-based temperature trackers measure the patient’s body temperature and relay it to the physician upon asking or in a timely manner.
#2. PROXIMITY SENSORS:
Proximity sensors are common in IoT devices and are used in numerous applications. Proximity sensors are capable of detecting the presence of nearby objects without physical contact. The way proximity sensors are able to detect objects is by emitting an electromagnetic field or a beam of electromagnetic radiation, which seeks any changes in the field. Some proximity sensors also utilize ultrasonic waves to calculate the distance between the object and themselves. Proximity sensors see some unique use cases in IoT devices. They are sometimes used in malls to detect the distance between the customer and the object they may be interested in buying. When the customer comes closer, the sensor triggers a notification (audio, visual, or digital) that lets the customer know about any discounts or special offers relating to the product. They are also used in parking lots to indicate parking availability.
#3. PRESSURE SENSORS:
A pressure sensor is a small device that measures the pressure (the force needed to stop a fluid from expanding) in liquids or gases. This is one of the popular IoT sensors primarily due to their industrial applications since industries are increasingly adopting loT connectivity. Now, numerous devices rely on liquid or other forms of pressure. The pressure sensor monitors all these systems and devices that are pressure-propelled. If there is any deviation, however slight, from the standard pressure range, the device then notifies the connected system about the deviations. These are typically used to check for water leaks in residential or commercial areas. They are also helpful in manufacturing processes, maintenance of whole water systems, heating systems, and more.
#4. OPTICAL SENSORS:
Optical sensors measure the physical quantity of light rays coming from any source (the sun, bulbs, fire, etc.) and then convert this into electrical signals, which can be read by either the user or an electronic instrument. Optical sensors are generously used in an array of different IoT devices or applications. They are used in healthcare, environment monitoring, energy, aerospace, and other industries. The most significant example of optical sensors being used in cutting-edge loT technology is automated cars. The induction of optical sensors in this space has allowed intelligent parking applications, object recognition, and light detection in autonomous vehicles. These sensors are also being utilized in innovative city projects for security systems, face recognition, city infrastructure monitoring, and more. They are also being used in smartphones to power in-display fingerprint security systems.
#5. WATER QUALITY SENSORS:
While most of us in urban areas take water quality for granted, many people in rural areas do not have access to purified and clean water. This is where water sensors come into play. Water quality sensors are tasked with detecting a range of parameters that determine the quality of water. These devices are implemented across the world in water filtration and distribution systems. They are used widely in intelligent systems that monitor the number of contaminants in water and issue notices/warnings if the water quality is too poor. Water quality sensors also help monitor sea pollution levels by incorporating other sensors, such as pH and OPR, to measure the acid-base balance or the number of suspended solids in the seawater. These sensors are also being utilized in modern swimming pools that monitor the pathogens in the water and start cleaning activities automatically when needed.
#6. HUMIDITY SENSORS:
Humidity sensors decipher the amount of water vapor and other gases in the atmosphere. This is also referred to as the ‘relative humidity or RH levels. These sensors are also commonly implemented where temperature sensors are usually found. This is because manufacturing processes often require pristine working conditions, and keeping the humidity in check can often ensure the smooth running of manufacturing processes. The sensors can detect a change in humidity almost instantly, which allows quick intervention if the manufacturing process is exceptionally susceptible to humidity. Humidity sensors can also be used to aid or trigger heating, ventilating, and air condition systems in industries and residential areas. In smart homes, humidity sensors can help keep track of the dryness of the air. Devices fitted with humidity sensors collect real-time humidity data and transfer the data to the network. After this, actionable commands are generated which can adjust the HVAC systems or activate a humidifier in intelligent homes.
#7. ACCELEROMETERS AND GYROSCOPES:
Most of you will be acquainted with gyroscopes and accelerometers since they are commonly found in smartphones. These are the sensors that are able to sense if your phone is in portrait mode or landscape mode and are also used in mobile games to aid movement (if the option is turned on). These sensors are just as prevalent in IoT applications too. Most of the time, accelerometers and gyroscopes are shipped together as one unit. However, there is a difference between the two. Gyroscopes use the Earth’s gravity to determine orientation, while accelerometers are designed to measure non-gravitational acceleration. In loT, accelerometers are used in mart pedometers and monitoring driving fleets. They can also be used as an anti-theft system that alerts the system if an object that should be stationary is moved. Gyros are commonly used to determine the moving direction of a GPS-tracked thing. It can also be used to detect wind direction and is used in clean energy applications.
There is no end to this list. There are more sophisticated sensors available in the market today. But we found these seven sensors serve the most in the IoT world. As we said, we have covered seven sensors commonly used in IoT devices and their practical applications in various landscapes.
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