Sensor types – Understanding sensors and applications 2016

A sensor is a device that converts physical measurement into an electrical signal in analog or digital signal. This allows remote sensing, display of variables, and recording of valuable data.

With so many different types of sensor types it is important to understand what each of the sensor does and knowing the key criteria before making a decision.

• Cost
• Sensitivity
• Range
• Power requirements
• Impedance
• Communication interfaces

Here are some of the sensors:

• Accelerometers – a device that measure acceleration, orientation and vibration. It measures static or dynamic forces of acceleration based on gravity. Typically, it is available in 1-3 axis accelerometer depending on how many axes you need it to detect.


• Humidity / Moisture – measure the amount of water in air. Collects water vapor level to indicate precipitation, dew, fog and absolute. E.g., hygrometer.



• Flow – measurement of different flows such as air flow, water flow and gas flow. E.g., distilling, conveyors, water purification system.



• Image – mostly used in camera modules, digital cameras and other imaging devices. E.g, dental x-ray, cephalometric imaging.


• Optic – This type of sensor uses optical fiber as the sensor or it uses optical fiber to transmit signals collected. It can measure strain, temperature, loads, deflection, liquid level and is more commonly used in the industrial sector. E.g., Photo diode, Photo transistor, Wave front sensor.



• Position sensor – a device that measures position or the distance traveled from one point to another. It is also known as linear, angular or multi-axis position sensor. E.g., potentiometer.


• Electric/ magnetic/ radio –measure the change in electric and magnetic signal. E.g., radar sensor, metal detector.


• Motion / Proximity – detect movement around an area. Common technologies used include passive infrared(PIR), microwave(MW), ultrasonic and vibration. E.g., burglar alarm.


• Gyroscope –similar to an accelerometer except it senses rotation and change in orientation whereas an accelerometer cannot. E.g., a user steering a car in a game or a user controlling a ball in a game.


• Light – detects the current ambient light level. E.g., photodetector, photoresistors


• Temperature/ Thermal – measure the temperature e.g.: calorimeter, air conditioner.


• Acoustic/ sound/ ultrasonic- a device used to measure sound wave, e.g., microphone, Geophone, Hydrophone.


• Chemical Sensors – a device that measure chemical composition of its environment including liquid and gas. e.g., ph sensor, breathalyzer, smoke detector.


• Bio Sensor – a device that detect analyte by sensing living organisms or biological molecule. E.g., blood glucose biosensor.

So any sensor you have used in hardware projects or you are planning to use? Feel free to share your experience and ideas with TechDesign! Stay tuned, and we will keep sharing the IOT related hot news!

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