IoT Devices – Basics of Sensors


Sensors are the eyes, ears, and skin of the Internet of Things (e.g. infrared, sound, temperature, etc.). There isn’t IoT without sensors. They are not about connecting devices. They are about improving the way of life, doing business, and the impact on the environment.


What is a sensor?

A sensor is a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the physical environment. The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, or any one of a great number of other environmental phenomena. The output is generally a signal that is converted to human-readable display at the sensor location or transmitted electronically over a network for reading or further processing.




These sensors can be paired with an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). It is an integrated circuit (IC) customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use.


Sensor Selection Criteria

There are certain criteria to follow in order to select a sensor. They are:

  • Accuracy

The sensor tracks information with precision.

  • Environmental conditions

The sensor tracks information based on specific environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, etc.

  • Range

The sensor tracks information based on specific upper and lower limits.

  • Calibration

The sensor can be adjusted to track accurate measurement and efficiency.

  • Cost

The sensor’s characteristics will determine the cost.

There are different ways to classify a sensor. Below you can find two examples of sensor’s classification:


Classification based on property
  • Temperature

The degree or intensity of heat present in a substance or object. Examples: Thermistors (resistor), thermocouples (electrical device), etc.

  • Pressure

The continuous physical force exerted on or against an object by something in contact with it. Examples: Fiber optic, vacuum, etc.

  • Flow

The fluid, gas, or electricity move along or out steadily and continuously in a current or stream. Examples: Electromagnetic, differential pressure, etc.

  • Level Sensors

A position on scale of amount, quantity, extent, or quality. Examples: Ultrasonic radio frequency, radar, etc.

  • Proximity and displacement

The nearness in space, time, or relationship, and the moving of something from its place or position. Examples: Magnetic, photoelectric, ultrasonic, etc.

  • Biosensors

A device that uses a living organism or biological molecules, especially enzymes or antibodies, to detect the presence of chemicals. Examples: Resonant mirror, electrochemical, etc.

  • Image

A representation of the external form of a thing. Examples: Charge coupled devices, CMOS (technology used in digital logic circuits), etc.

  • Gas and chemical

An air like fluid substance which expands freely to fill any space available. Examples: Semiconductor, Infrared, Electrochemical, etc.

  • Acceleration

The increase in rate or speed of something. Examples: Gyroscopes, Accelerometers, etc.

  • Others


Classification based on Groups

  • Accelerometers

These are based on the Micro Electro Mechanical sensor technology.

  • Biosensors

These are based on the electrochemical technology.

  • Image Sensors

These are based on the CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) technology.

  • Motion Detectors

These are based on the Infra-Red, Ultrasonic, and Microwave / radar technology.


Sensor Classification Example



Overall, the Internet of Things devices can be separated in two broad categories:

  • Industrial IoT

The IoT device will typically be connected to an IP network to the global Internet.

  • Commercial IoT

The IoT device will typically communicate only with local devices.

To build IoT devices, it is necessary to figure out first how they will communicate with the rest of the world.

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