What Are IoT Sensors? Types, Uses, and Examples

Ralph Heredia
Aug 30, 2021 8:00:00 AM

What would IoT be without IoT sensors? The answer is: nothing. Sensors are the foundation of an IoT ecosystem, providing devices with the ability to collect the data used to make things happen. Let’s take a look at IoT sensors in detail, including the types of sensors available, how they’re used, and examples of IoT sensors in the real world.

What are IoT Sensors? 

IoT sensors are pieces of hardware that detect changes in an environment and collect data. They’re the pieces of an IoT ecosystem that bridge the digital world to the physical world. IoT sensors may detect things like temperature, pressure, and motion, and if they are connected to a network, they share data with the network. 

14 Types of IoT Sensors

There are many different types of sensors, and they come in different shapes and sizes. Here are 14 of the most common types and uses of sensors.

1. Temperature Sensors

Temperature sensors measure the amount of heat generated from an area or an object. They detect a temperature change and convert the findings to data. Temperature sensors are used in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture. Some examples are thermistors, thermocouples, and resistor temperature detectors (RTD).

2. Proximity Sensors

Proximity sensors detect the presence or absence of objects near the sensor without physical contact. They often emit a beam of radiation like infrared or an electromagnetic field. They can be used for process monitoring and control, object counting, assembly lines, and determining available space. Proximity sensors are common in retail settings, industrial complexes, and parking lots. Some examples are photoelectric, magnetic, capacitive, inductive, and ultrasonic.

3. Pressure Sensors

These sensors detect changes in a gas or liquid. When the pressure range is beyond a set threshold, pressure sensors alert to the problem. They are used for leak testing, water systems, vehicles, and aircraft. For example, the BMP180 is a digital pressure sensor found in cell phones and GPS navigation devices. And some vehicles use a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to alert when tire pressure is low and potentially unsafe.

4. Water Quality Sensors

As you’d expect, water quality sensors monitor the quality of water. They are often used in water distribution systems, but they function in a variety of industries. There are different kinds of water sensors, including residual chlorine sensors, turbidity sensors, pH sensors, and total organic carbon sensors.

5. Chemical and Gas Sensors

These sensors monitor air quality for the presence of toxic or hazardous gas. They often use semiconductor, electrochemical, or photo-ionization technologies for detection. They are typically used in industrial and manufacturing settings, though they are also found in carbon dioxide detectors.

6. Infrared Sensors

Some sensors either detect or emit infrared radiation to sense characteristics and changes in the surrounding area. They’re useful for measuring heat emissions from an object. Infrared sensors are used in remote controls, healthcare settings, and even by art historians authenticating artwork.

7. Smoke Sensors

Most people are familiar with smoke detectors, as they have protected our homes and businesses for a long time. However, with improvements based on IoT, smoke detectors are now more user-friendly, convenient, and wire-free.

8. Motion Sensors

Motion sensors detect physical movement in an area. Of course, these sensors play a significant role in the security industry, but they are used in nearly every industry. Applications include automated sinks and toilet flushers, automatic door controls, energy management systems, and automated parking systems. Standard motion sensors include ultrasonic, microwave, and passive infrared (PIR).

9. Level Sensors

Level sensors detect the level of various substances, including powder, granular material, and liquids. Industries that use them include water treatment, food and beverage manufacturing, oil manufacturing, and waste management. They can detect the level of liquid in a container and can even determine the amount of waste in a dumpster. 

10. Image Sensors

These sensors convert optical images into signals and are generally used to display or store files electronically. They are found in radar and sonar, biometric devices, night vision equipment, medical imaging, digital cameras, and even some cars. Charge-coupled devices (CCD) and complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS) are most commonly used.

11. Humidity Sensors

These sensors measure the amount of water vapor in the air. Typical uses include heating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) and weather monitoring and prediction. When humidity must be tightly controlled, such as in museums, hospitals, and greenhouses, humidity sensors assist the process. 

12. Accelerometer Sensors

Accelerometer sensors detect the orientation of an object and the rate of change, including tap, shake, tilt, and positioning. They are used in many industries for smart pedometers, anti-theft protection, and monitoring auto fleets. Some types are capacitive accelerometers and hall-effect accelerometers.

13. Gyroscope Sensors

A gyroscope sensor measures the angular rate or velocity, or the speed of rotation around an axis. They are generally used for navigation in the auto industry for navigation and anti-skid systems as well as in video games and drones. Some examples include optical gyroscopes, rotary gyroscopes, and vibrating structure gyroscopes.

14. Optical Sensors

Optical sensors measure light and convert it into electrical signals. Many industries make use of optical sensors, including auto, energy, healthcare, and aerospace. Sensors include fiber optics, photodetector, and pyrometer.

Examples of IoT Sensors

At Zipit, we work with clients providing IoT solutions across a wide range of industries. Our clients use IoT for everything from creating Wi-Fi hotspots to asset tracking to farming fertilizer and irrigation control systems. It’s exciting to partner with companies to add value and advance the IoT use cases. Some of the best examples of Zipit customers delivering sensor-based solutions & technologies include:

  • Sensit Technologies — Gas leak monitoring and detection instruments 
  • MultiTech — Sensor-to-gateway IoT applications
  • HeatSiecker — Livestock monitoring solution with heat detection
  • Smardii — Incontinence products for healthcare provided in hospitals

Considerations When Using IoT Sensors

There are a lot of things to think about when determining the right type of sensors for your business needs. One of the top considerations will be the form factor, including size. Will this be a wearable device, used in a vehicle, or functioning in a factory? And will it need to be easily accessible? 

Also, consider the power consumption and the frequency of that consumption. Is it steady and frequent or sporadic? Additionally, you’ll want to consider the volume and rate of data that will be transmitted. You’ll need to make sure the IoT ecosystem can handle it. And last, but equally important, is to consider security. Cyberattacks are always a concern, so the security of your IoT device should be front-and-center when you’re setting up.

Zipit's Solutions for Sensor-Based IoT Architectures

For those device manufacturers that are incorporating IoT sensors into their connected device products, Zipit can assist with providing connectivity and monetization strategies your connected device solution. 

IoT Sensor Connectivity

A key challenge with deploying sensor solutions is managing costs. The more sensors you add, the more data is consumed, increasing the cost to maintain the network. Zipit helps customers control costs by ensuring the end consumer covers increased utilization. The Zipit IoT platform can track the number of sensors used in a deployment, and when more are added, the end customer is prompted to change their billing to accommodate this increased usage. 

Monetizing One-to-Many Sensor/Gateway IoT Solutions

The Zipit platform helps customers develop effective business models using sensors and a cellular gateway, or hub. Sensors can monitor product performance, detect anomalies in the service due to things like power failure, and more. 

IoT Sensors Help Drive the Value of IoT

Sensors serve a crucial role in an IoT ecosystem, enabling it to operate by detecting changes in an environment and collecting valuable data. The type of sensor you choose for your device will depend on your device, its purpose, and how your customers are using it.  

Want to know more about Zipit’s robust yet intuitive IoT platform to connect and monetize sensor-based IoT solutions? Contact us to discuss your company's unique needs. We’re happy to offer insights based on our extensive experience.

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