Smart Sensors: gateway to automation

>Hey, what’s the time now, answered a voice -12:30 pm.

Can you play me pleasant music, answered a voice, yes for sure and the music started to play.

Isn’t it quite normal in our life today?

From telling time to playing music just on a simple gesture or voice the command has made our lives so convenient and it’s on the way to becoming an integral part of our life.

So, isn’t it cool to know about the technology working behind this application?

Smart sensors have become the buzzword in the tech area. Some popular applications of this elegant technology are – infotainment system in cars, automated agriculture works, portable devices like phones and tablets, Amazon Echo, AC, and the most renowned of all self-driven cars.

Firstly, the question arises that-

Is the sensor a new term?

Actually not, sensors have been used from a very early time.

In the world of instrumentation and process control, we can define sensors as a device that detects changes in physical properties (pressure, temperature, acceleration, current, voltage) and produces an electrical output in response to that change. An example of such is a thermocouple which is a temperature sensor that produces an increasing voltage across it when exposed to increasing temperature.

This was all about simply sensors, what happens when a smart word gets added to it?

Well, it starts sensing more than just singular basic physical properties maybe or maybe it can start doing data processing, data conversion, or can communicate to external devices- “The Cloud”!!

Before going to the point, let’s take a glimpse of another example air conditioners where smart sensors are used, air conditioners which are now freshly busting in the market are having a new technology of auto on and off the feature according to the temperature of the room. It works according to a pre-defined limit. Say, if the set limit is 20ºC. The AC gets on automatically if the temperature is more than the set limit and automatically gets turned off if the temperature is less than 20ºC.

That is, we would be free even from such a trivial switching job!

So, let’s start

Definition-

In very basic terms, smart sensors are provided with signal conditioning, embedded algorithms, and digital interfaces. It can also include several other components like transducers, analogue filters, excitation control, amplifiers, and compensators.

It has edges over simple base sensors, they are capable of a variety of functions and come with many options.

Now let’s take a thorough look at the detailed information of

How a Smart sensor works:

Look at the diagram given here-

This basic block diagram explains the functioning of smart sensors. Let us see part by part, the fragments of the smart sensors.

  1. Sensors

    A sensor detects the change in physical properties such as temperature, pressure, the humidity of the outer environment and converts the same to electrical signals, and sends it to interface units.

  2. Interface module-

    The processor in our system takes digital input only but the output that comes out of sensors is in form of electrical signals. Therefore, analog signals need to be converted into digital signals. The digital form of the signal is obtained with the help of the interface module.

  3. Signal Conditioning-

    The interface module can be divided into two signal conditioning and ADC (Analog to digital converter). Signal conditioning is used to condition a signal basically. This could easily be understood by taking a situation of a factory where there’s a good deal of noise. And say, we require to keep track of the temperature of the motor. Whenever the input is taken due to the setup of a factory there’s an abundance of disturbance in analog signals or the signals may be weak. Therefore, signal conditioning helps to remove disturbance sounds and to amplify our output of sensors.

  4. ADC (Analog to digital converter)-

    After filtering of the signals, the ADC converts the analog signals to digital signals.

  5. Processor-

    Explaining this with the above given AC example, if we were using a normal sensor only, we would have been only able to see the room temperature but if we have to make an automatically adjusting AC possibly, we need an analyzing system also. Here comes the role of Processor. The three crucial properties that the processor provides which make the sensor smart are display, memory, and communication.

    Display-

    It displays data digitally.

    Memory-

    For instance, whenever we want to analyze a particular set of data of the past two or three weeks the processor helps us to do that, in short, it helps to reduce maintenance cost since we get a pre-information of faults and machinery.

    Communication-

    This is a very high standard facility which a sensor offers, we could easily check our data by even sitting in our homes away from workplaces. This in fact will make our lives very convenient. A person can check all the functioning of the machinery in his factory by being in any corner of the world. Isn’t that interesting?

Applications of Smart sensors:

Let us now discuss some entrancing examples of Smart sensor application-

Amazon Echo:

It uses the technology of smart sensors, which connects to cloud-based Alexa voice service to play music, ask a question, make calls, send messages, and many more.

Mobileye is an Israeli company that developed an advanced vision-based driver support systems.

A pocket-sized gas detector is capable of measuring gas such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ozone. Hence, they prevent accidents in factories using low power and low cost.

Future Scope:

From navigation systems in cell phones and smart wearable systems for health monitoring to autonomous cars is soon to become our integral part of life. This technology of smart sensors has become the buzzword in the present day because of its high capability, self-assessment, and self-calibration. In the coming future, these smart sensors will be adopted by mobile phones and the industrial market. Also, this technology is going to be used in the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). Therefore, these smart sensors have a pretty high potential for the future. They are being already involved in all areas of life from HVAC systems to traffic management, air conditioning systems, and agriculture.

So, that’s all. Thanks for reading.
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Harshita Raj
Harshita Raj
Articles: 9

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