There’s a sensor that does what?

September 16, 2017

A pulsing, glowing light bathes the room. Screens cover one wall. A man standing at a computer anxiously scrolls through data. Mechanical fans whir unpleasantly.  The man turns, exclaiming as he does so, “The sensors have been tripped! Evacuate everyone. Now!”

What are these sensors? How do they get tripped? Is this real technology or has plot movement bamboozled us once again? Fair questions.  It’s true that at one point, sensors were just a pipe dream. Today, they are used in a range of applications — from engineering to manufacturing and smart home IoT solutions — improving operations and processes the world over.

But the questions remain: What are they? What are they good for?

A sensor is a sophisticated device that measures physical data and relays it to a processor. It takes something like temperature, converts it to an electrical signal and measures it, and then transmits that information.

Sensors can help assess nearly any situation, though they do have some limits, primarily environmental conditions. Depending on your reference source, there are as many as 14 different categories of sensors.

Our engineers at Sealevel have incorporated sensors into their daily lives. One of them uses a limit switch to detect his garage door’s position and he gets a text message if it’s left open. He also knows when someone enters the garage, which is great for knowing his spouse is home safe. Another engineer on staff uses a temperature sensor in his garage fridge. If the temperature gets too high — usually from someone forgetting to close it — an alarm goes off.

But sensors have been used to make the world smarter. Thermal mass flow sensors can detect the smallest air flows possible, which has made medical ventilators faster and more precise. A combination of moisture, vibration and soil density sensors can be used to detect dangerous land condition patterns and prevent avalanches or landslides. Some wineries use optical sensors to monitor vine trunk diameter, which indicates grapevine health.

As the Internet of Things becomes quotidian, sensor knowledge is a must. Sensor technology has reimagined daily and industrial processes. Incorporating them, using the data they generate, and interfacing them with cloud services or automation technology can lead to fine-tuned, optimized operations.

Contact Sealevel if you want to discuss I/O solutions to work with your smart network.