Did you know that your smartphone has a sensor that turns off the display when the phone is held close to the ear? If not for this sensor, you would find it hard to speak/listen on the phone without accidentally pressing on the touchscreen. Just imagine muting the call inadvertently and speaking for a long time. This does not happen because your phone has a magical in-built sensor called proximity sensor.
Evolution of technology has always remained the prime concern of businesses. When it comes to the telecom industry, the tech is evolving at a rapid pace. IoT is the new buzzword in the industry and operators, both big and small, are trying to make the most of the opportunity presented by it. IoT sensors form an integral part of the IoT universe and it is essential that operators create the right infrastructure that enables optimal sensor performance.
Types of Sensors
Sensors are vital for the rightful performance of an IoT platform. There are different types of sensors that form a part of the IoT universe. Below is a list:
This type of IoT sensor is often used in smart phones to switch off the display for preventing the accidental pressing of the keypad. These sensors are designed to detect the movement of an object without any direct contact. A proximity sensor emits infrared rays for detection. Another implementation of a proximity sensor is in retail where it can alert the user about a possible discount when he passes the aisle where the discounted product is stored. It can also be used in parking lots to inform car owners about the availability of parking space.
Temperature IoT sensor is extensively utilized for detecting heat. It is ideal for detecting temperature changes and taking the necessary action accordingly. For example, it can be used to detect the temperature of goods stored in a refrigeration compartment. Whenever the containment unit malfunctions and the temperature becomes unfavorable, the IoT sensor sends a notification to the manager informing him about the situation or automatically triggers failsafe mechanism to prevent damage to the stored items.
This IoT sensor is used for measuring angular velocity and speed of rotation. Gyroscopes are often utilized in car navigation systems and anti-skid systems. They are also utilized in gaming systems like Wii for detecting controller input.
Many industrial operations require the measurement of pressure at all times. Any change in pressure needs to be reported for ensuring optimal operation. Pressure is a measure of force exerted per square unit of area, and it can vary because of a number of reasons. In commercial applications where leakage of liquid can be a factor, pressure sensors can be implemented for checking on leakage. The pressure sensor connected to the local server informs the overseer about the current status, which allows him to fix the problem.
Optical sensors are the most extensively used sensors in industrial operations. An IoT optical sensor transforms optical light rays into an electrical signal. In other words, it converts the incoming light signal into a digitally readable form, which can be measured easily. This property can be put to good use in industrial applications like LASER, alarm systems, mining and refineries.
Smoke sensors are a great way to prevent fire. A smoke sensor can detect smoke and its level. Primarily, there are two types of smoke sensors: ionization and optical. These sensors activate when the smoke level rises, and an alarm or notification is sent to the fire department or the people in charge.
Water Quality Sensors
Water is the essence of life. But impure water can lead to dangerous diseases like cholera and typhoid. So, it is important to measure the quality of water before deeming it fit for drinking purpose. A few common examples of water quality sensors are:
- Residual sensor for chlorine – Although chlorine is used for wastewater treatment, it is necessary to measure its quantity. The residual sensor is highly efficient in monitoring the density of chlorine in water.
- Sensor for measuring water turbidity – Turbidity is a measure of water haziness on account of the particles present. Turbidity sensors reveal the level of particles present in water.
Other important water quality sensors are pH sensor, conductivity sensor and organic carbon sensor.
Measuring the change in content of chemicals contained in liquid and air is essential for many industrial applications. Chemical sensors are used for monitoring these changes and hence they are very critical. For example, if there is a change in chemical content of air, it could be bad for the general public health. Or, if there is a chemical attack as part of a war or a major industrial failure, then these sensors will trigger automatically and alert the administrators and nearby population. Thus, preventing a great harm to public.
These IoT sensors are often used in factories, agriculture, healthcare industry and chemical laboratories. Just like chemical sensors, these sensors can protect general population against toxic chemical attacks via air. Apart from that, these sensors can also be used in many diagnosis applications like breath analyzer for checking if the person is drunk or not, ozone monitoring to check O3 content.
Infrared sensors better known as IR sensors can be very useful in cases where you want to detect something in the vicinity of an object. These sensors are also capable of detecting heat signatures and also for measuring temperatures. Mostly, IR sensors are used in the healthcare sector for gauging the BP and blood flow in a person. These sensors are very versatile and are increasingly used in fields like home security, optical communication and also as part of many wearable electronic items.
Sensors for Checking Level or Level Sensors
As the name suggests, level sensors are used for checking the level of fluids in both closed and open systems. A popular use of these sensors is in recycling domain where they are often used to calculate the number of liquid assets in possession. They are also used in critical applications like sea level monitoring and Tsunami warning systems. Pharmaceutical industry employs Level Sensors in bulk, and they are also extensively used in beverage industries. The biggest benefit of using these sensors is that they can tell you at any time about the level of fuel or liquid in your system. If the amount of liquid present goes below a certain value, then an alarm triggers notifying the user about the situation.
Conversion of optical imagery into electrical signal form is done via image sensors. As the name implies, these sensors are extensively used in imaging for labs and photography. They can be divided into two categories:
- Charged Coupled Device (CCD)
- Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)
Both these sensors have similar sensitivity for light and this is their main driving principle. This is the main reason why they are used for lab-related imaging tasks like thermal imaging. Due to their efficacy in identifying visual imagery, they are also put to use in self-driving cars. By identifying obstacles and recognizing signs, the image sensors allow the car to navigate through the road without any driver. Even retail industry is using these sensors in abundance to identify who visits their store. These sensors make it very easy for business owners to identify the different attributes of their customers e.g. age, ethnicity, color, gender etc. All this information can be of great use to a company. For example, a company can form potent marketing strategies based on this data to increase customer interest in their offerings.
Sensors for Detecting Motion
These sensors are capable of identifying/detecting motion in their vicinity. They transform the detected motion into an electrical signal form, which triggers an alarm or perform the necessary action to alert the intended parties. These sensors are frequently used as part of house monitoring systems to prevent intrusion and unauthorized access. Some other examples of implementation of these systems are:
- Toll gates to detect vehicle movement and opening the gate accordingly
- Door control in shops and malls for automating gate opening and closing
- Parking systems
- Flushers and hand driers in toilets
- EMS (Energy Management Systems) for turning off power when machine/equipment is not in use
- Automated cooling and lighting by detecting human presence
Apart from these implementations, motion sensors can also be creatively used for simplifying commercial operations. For example, if a customer is browsing in a store, the sensor can alert him when he is in the proximity of the product that is on his wish list.
Some examples of popular motion sensors are:
- Passive infrared
These are actually transducers that measure physical acceleration via inertial forces. After sensing the forces, they convert the perceived movement into electrical signal output. As they measure velocity change with respect to time, they are called accelerometer.
Primarily, accelerometer sensors are utilized for smartphones. But they have also been implemented in smart pedometers, theft protection and monitoring driving fleets. Some other popular examples of their implementation are:
- Cellular devices in the telecom industry
- Aviation industry
- Automotive industry
- Electronic items
Below are some examples of different types of accelerometer:
- Piezoelectric accelerometers (Use piezoelectric effect to gauge acceleration)
- Capacitive accelerometers (Use output voltage of devices to measure acceleration)
- Hall-effect accelerometer (Utilize piezoelectric sensing principle)
These sensors are mostly used for identifying the moisture or water vapor content in the air. As humidity is an equally important criteria as temperature for storage and other industrial operations, these types of sensors have become extremely important. Without these sensors, it is likely that retail stores and warehouses will suffer major losses due to product damage and decay. Other important areas, in which, humidity sensors are utilized are listed below:
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Meteorology stations
- For storage of paints in the coating industry
The Importance of IoT Platform in IoT Sensor Performance
IoT sensors have transformed workspaces and influenced industrial operations. But, for an IoT sensor to perform well, it needs a cutting-edge platform. Below are some essential features of a quality IoT platform that every telecom operator should look for:
Versatile M2M connectivity
Machine to Machine connectivity is the building block of an IoT network. Different IoT use cases require different types of connectivity solutions to ensure optimal operation. Mostly, IoT sensors require high-speed and low-latency connectivity to ensure continuous and error-free communication. But, there are other business cases where IoT sensor discharge can become a matter of concern and you may need low-speed and low power consuming IoT connectivity. Therefore, you should always look for a platform that is capable of delivering M2M connectivity exactly as per requirements.
Security of the sensors
The sensors disseminated over the IoT universe store personal information of the people using them. Also, there are many sensors that are critical to life e.g. an IoT pacemaker inserted into the body of a patient suffering from heart ailment. To ensure IoT sensors work as intended and do not compromise the user information, it is essential to implement robust encryption that prevents hackers from accessing the critical data. Cutting-edge security measures like AES and WPA2 are ideal for thwarting hack attempts made on IoT devices.
OTA firmware upgrade
A myriad of IoT sensors are connected as part of the IoT network. It is almost impossible to upgrade all the sensors manually under direct supervision. Therefore, an IoT platform should come with OTA firmware upgrade capabilities. OTA or Over the Air firmware upgrade keeps every device and IoT sensor updated without any direct human involvement.
IoT Sensors: Revolutionizing the Way Industries Operate
IoT sensors have become a vital part of industries across the globe. They have immense potential to change the way work is done. Below are some existing implementation of IoT sensors in various business and household operations:
Telematics is an IoT-powered implementation that can work wonders for automobile insurance industry. Telematics can transmit driving data in real-time to the insurance company. This data can be analyzed, based on which the insurance company can set the premium for the policy. If the driver is too rash, the premium can be set high.
The vast areas of land used in farming can be hard to monitor in real-time. But, with IoT-powered drones, it is possible to analyze the land from afar. The drones can collect the data and forward it to the farmers. The information received can be used for devising new strategies. For example, if the crops are infested by pests and showing signs of deterioration, then farmers can spray the necessary chemicals to clear the infestation. Or, if an area of land is not receiving proper irrigation, a tube well can be constructed at that site.
Storage of perishable goods in retail business
Selling perishable goods requires you to monitor their condition at all times. When the temperature is not ideal, the stored goods may decay or rot. Hence, it is essential to monitor their condition in real-time. For such cases, major players in the retail industry are frequently utilizing temperature sensors in their storage units. The temperature sensors trigger an alarm whenever the temperature fluctuates, which allows people in charge to fix the problem before it causes heavy losses.
For basic fitness and monitoring patients
Fitness watches are all the rage now. These watches help people stay fit by letting them know about their blood pressure, heart rate, temperature etc. They also measure calories burnt throughout the day, which is a valuable piece of information for fitness enthusiasts. When combined with IoT network, these watches can be used by physicians for keeping a track of their patients’ health. We are also seeing a rise in the use of IoT sensors in complex medical transplants like pacemakers. IoT pacemakers send heart-related data in real-time to doctors. Based on this data, doctors prescribe future medication and devise their plan of action.