Sensing the world around us
Anywhere you have a system with added intelligence, there is likely to be at least one sensor. Sensors can be used to improve quality control and productivity in manufacturing processes by monitoring variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and composition.
Technological innovations have brought a new generation of tiny sensors, such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). These are smaller, smarter, and can be integrated into fixed and portable devices such as for example smart watches, mobile phones and much more.
Sensors have long been a vital part of medical devices within the hospital environment. Wearable electronics allow patients to be remotely connected to their health practitioner. They are the key to a more patient-centric, decentralized health care system.
Networks of sensors fitted into the living environment support active assisted living (AAL), allowing people who need care to live in their own environment for longer.
Sensors enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace. Contactless soap dispensers and automatic taps in hospitals and other public buildings help eliminate the spread of germs. Sensors used in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detectors, and surveillance equipment protect people from fire, or intrudors. Sensors are also a key element of many personal safety systems, such as the tiny MEMS accelerometers used in vehicle airbags.
Sensors are the key to making factories smart. Inexpensive and easily available sensor networks make it possible to transmit data and intelligent analytics for informed decision-making. Among other things, the technology is enabling manufacturers to understand how their machines influence a product’s tolerances, stresses and design.
There are many different kinds of sensor on our smartphones. For example, the gyroscope that allows the switch between landscape and portrait modes, or the ambient light sensor that helps control the brightness of screens. Fingerprint sensors are another good example.
Sensors underpin the technologies in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, night vision or collision warning systems with automatic steering and braking intervention. They also make fully autonomous cars possible.