Top 10 IoT Sensor Types
Sensors are everywhere. They’re in our homes and workplaces, our shopping centers and hospitals. They’re embedded in smart phones and an integral part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors have been around for a long time. The first thermostat was introduced in the late 1880s and infrared sensors have been around since the late 1940s. The IoT and its counterpart, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), are bringing sensor usage to a new level.
Broadly speaking, sensors are devices that detect and respond to changes in an environment. Inputs can come from a variety of sources such as light, temperature, motion and pressure. Sensors output valuable information and if they are connected to a network, they can share data with other connected devices and management systems.
Sensors are crucial to the operation of many of today’s businesses. They can warn you of potential problems before becoming big problems, allowing businesses to perform predictive maintenance and avoid costly downtime. The data from sensors can also be analyzed for trends allowing business owners to gain insight into crucial trends and make informed evidence-based decisions.
Sensors come in many shapes and sizes. Some are purpose-built can containing many built-in sensors to allow you to monitor and measure many sources of data. In brownfield environments, it’s key for sensors to include digital and analog inputs so that they can read data from legacy sensors.
There are many types of IoT sensors and an even greater number of applications and use cases. Here are 10 of the more popular types of IoT sensors and some of their use cases.
1. Temperature Sensors
Temperature sensors measure the amount of heat energy in a source, allowing them to detect temperature changes and convert these changes to data. Machinery used in manufacturing often requires environmental and device temperatures to be at specific levels. Similarly, within agriculture, soil temperature is a key factor for crop growth.
2. Humidity Sensors
These types of sensors measure the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere of air or other gases. Humidity sensors are commonly found in heating, vents and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in both industrial and residential domains. They can be found in many other areas including hospitals, and meteorology stations to report and predict weather.
3. Pressure Sensors
A pressure sensor senses changes in gases and liquids. When the pressure changes, the sensor detects these changes, and communicates to connected systems. Common use cases include leak testing which can be a result of decay. Pressure sensors are also useful in the manufacturing of water systems as it is easy to detect fluctuations or drops in pressure.
4. Proximity Sensors
Proximity sensors are used for non-contact detection of objects near the sensor. These types of sensors often emit electromagnetic fields or beams of radiation such as infrared. Proximity sensors have some interesting use cases. In retail, a sensor can detect the motion between a customer and a product in which the customer is interested. The user can be notified of any discounts or special offers of products located near the sensor. Proximity sensors are also used in the parking lots of malls, stadiums and airports to indicate parking availability. They can also be used on the assembly lines of chemical, food and many other types of industries.
5. Level Sensors
Level sensors are used to detect the level of substances including liquids, powders and granular materials. Level sensors are used in many industries including oil manufacturing, water treatment, and beverage and food manufacturing factories. Waste management systems provide a common use case as level sensors can detect the level of waste in a garbage can or dumpster.
Accelerometers detect an object’s acceleration i.e. the rate of change of the object’s velocity with respect to time. Accelerometers can also detect changes to gravity. Use cases for accelerometers include smart pedometers and monitoring driving fleets. They can also be used as anti-theft protection as the sensor can alert the system if an object that should be station is moved.
Gyroscope sensors measure the angular rate or velocity, often defined as a measurement of speed and rotation around an axis. Use cases include automotive, such as car navigation and electronic stability control (anti-skid) systems. Additional use cases include motion sensing for video games, and camera-shake detection systems.
8. Gas Sensors
These types of sensors monitor and detect changes in air quality, specifically the presence of various gases including toxic, combustible or hazardous gasses. Industries using gas sensors include mining, oil and gas, chemical research and manufacturing. A common consumer use case is the familiar carbon dioxide detectors used in many homes.
9. Infrared Sensors
These types of sensors sense characteristics in their surroundings by either emitting or detecting infrared radiation. They can also measure the heat emitted by objects. Infrared sensors are used in a variety of different IoT projects including healthcare as they simplify the monitoring of blood flow and blood pressure. Televisions use infrared sensors to interpret the signals sent from a remote control. Another interesting application is that of art historians using infrared sensors to see hidden layers in paintings to help determine whether a work of art is original or fake or has been altered by a restoration process.
10. Optical Sensors
Optical sensors convert rays of light into electrical signals. There are many applications and use cases for optical sensors. In the auto industry, vehicles use optical sensors to recognize signs, obstacles, and other things that a driver would notice when driving or parking. Optical sensors play a big role in the development of driverless cars. Optical sensors are very common in smart phones. For example, ambient light sensors can extend battery life. Optical sensors are also used in the biomedical field including breath analysis and heart-rate monitors.
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