Sensors: what are they, how advanced and main applications

As per Oxford English Dictionary, a sensor is device which detects or measures a physical property and records, indicates, or otherwise responds to it.

In general, it is a device that gets in direct contact with the phenomenon it has to measure, transforming it into measurable signals. Most of the times, the sensors fit inside other instruments, so as to widen the signal.

When the industrial sensor integrates with the signal amplifier and a remote communication device, then it is called a transducer.

With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) on an ever larger scale, sensors and intelligent network connection systems play an increasingly important and fundamental role.

Use of industrial sensors

Thanks to continuous innovations in the field of electronics, sensors have a wide range of applications in various fields, such as medicine, industry, robotics and wherever control systems are needed.

The importance of sensors is due to their ability to transform any object into a data source. They are in fact able to connect the analog world to the digital world:

  • in vehicles
  • in the factories
  • in smart homes
  • in the medical field.

The relevance of this data, which is available in a precise and instantaneous way, is crucial in today’s highly competitive market where businesses must necessarily save on their production costs, managing to optimize production costs and realize the Smart Factory concept.

Industrial sensors in Manufacturing

For the manufacturing operators, the attention is above all directed to everything related to the digitalization, the acquisition of data and the embedded systems (microprocessor digital electronic processing systems designed specifically for a given application).

It is not just a coincidence that one of the fields in which they can mostly develop is hydraulics, which shall turn into Digital Hydraulics, thanks to more and more efficient sensors, able to optimize operative costs.

Nowadays, it is possible to collect data in a single component, but also to process them according to different needs, without the need to use external devices.

Future economic perspectives for sensors

According to the Zion Market Research studies, the average annual growth in turnover for IoT sensors is expected to be around 24% until 2022, up to a value of over 27 billion dollars. The main engines of this growth will be:

  • automotive industry
  • medical electronics.

This is thanks to the emergence of assisted driving systems and new features for the interior comfort of vehicles and, at the same time, there is great care in infrastructures investments.

As an example, check out here the article about sensors on Italian Highways.

The parameters on which the improvement studies are focusing to meet increasingly higher technical requirements with ever-lower costs are:

  • miniaturization
  • reliability
  • strength.

With regard to the applications in the medical field, the possibilities are opened to small and intelligent vision systems, applicable within the human body for a more effective and economic administration of medical drugs. Furthermore, some special apparel was developed to make a non invasive check-up, like the Smart T-shirt.  

To achieve the intended result, these application will necessarily have to meet stringent requirements for accuracy, reliability and safety (such as biocompatible housing and gas-tight capsules).

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