Sensors have become a part of our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. They’ve taken over our homes (hello, Alexa and OK, Google), our cars, our jobs, and cities. They’ve turned mundane tasks into “smart” living. But what do you really know about sensors and their capabilities?
What is a Sensor?
Let’s start out by defining a sensor. A sensor is a device that detects or measures a physical property and either records, indicates, or responds to it by transmitting an impulse. It converts a physical specification (such as temperature, speed, or distance) into a signal which can be electrically recorded.
Sensors have been around for decades, but recent IoT solutions have boosted their popularity and pushed a need for more sophisticated, technologically-loaded sensors.
Sensors today must encompass the ability to communicate with other sensors and platforms within an entire ‘sensor ecosystem’. The role of the sensor is extremely important in the overall IoT picture.
The number and variety of sensors that gather information to be measured and analyzed is growing significantly, especially with the rise of automation. For this reason, most types of sensors fall under a sensor classification system.
Classification of Sensors
Sensors can be ranked into various classification systems, but for the sake of simplification, we’ve divided them into 5:
- Active and Passive Sensors
- Active Sensors (aka parametric sensors) require an external power source to operate, such as GPS and radar.
- Passive Sensors (aka self-generated sensors) generate their own electric signal and do not require any external power source. These include thermal sensors, electric field sensing, and metal detecting.
- Contact and Non-Contact Sensors
- Contact Sensors require a physical contact with their stimulus. Familiar examples include temperature and strain gauge sensors.
- Non-Contact Sensors require no physical contact. This type of sensors include optical and magnetic sensors, as well as infrared thermometers.
- Absolute and Relative Sensors
- Absolute Sensors mimic its name by providing an absolute reading of its stimulus. For example, a thermistor always measures the exact, or absolute, temperature reading.
- Relative Sensors provide measurement to a fixed or variable measurement. For example, a thermocouple, where the temperature difference is measured, not the actual temperature.
- Analog and Digital Sensors
- Analog Sensors produce continuous analog output signals, proportional to their measurement. These include accelerometers, pressure sensors, light, and sound sensors.
- Digital Sensors (also known as electronic or electrochemical sensors) convert data transmission, digitally. Examples include digital accelerometers, pressure, and temperature sensors.
- Miscellaneous Sensors
- Of course, there are plenty of other types of sensors in the field. These include electric, biological, chemical, radioactive and more.
Sensors, Sensors Everywhere
As you can see, within the 5 classifications for sensors, there are thousands of sensors to choose from, ranging from more common to extremely rare.
The most common sensors are typically used for measuring physical properties such as temperature, heat, conduction etc:
- Temperature Sensor
- CO2 Sensor
- Proximity Sensor
- IR Sensor (Infrared Sensor)
- Pressure Sensor
- Light Sensor
- Smoke, Gas and Alcohol Sensor
- Touch Sensor
IoT Bundles to the Rescue
Examining each sensor type and classification can be an overwhelming process, especially when it comes to choosing which sensors your business needs. IoT bundles take the fear and uncertainty out of the equation.
The Axonize blog will continue to dive deeper into IoT bundles, discuss what’s out there, and their individual benefits for today’s companies.
Our disruptive architecture was purposely designed to enable deployment of complete and fully customized solutions across all applications and device types in just days.
If you’re interested in learning more about sensors as they pertain to your business, contact us. You can also read our smart buildings whitepaper to learn more about how sensors function to feed the ecosystem of smart building solutions.