The Role of Sensors in Modern-Day Electronics

The Role of Sensors in Modern-Day Electronics


Technology plays a massive role in our day to day living. But while many people tend to ignore how specific technology and devices came about, there are some who find themselves wondering what makes a machine work. Every single component that works together and allows mobile devices, automobiles and even household appliances to make life in this century more convenient is equally valuable, regardless of how small it is. 

One example of devices that have revolutionised the way we live is sensors. Sensors fall in a myriad of categories, working different principles, sizes, and specifications; understanding them can be overwhelming for a non-specialist. However, a working knowledge of what sensors are, and their purpose, can help in appreciating the importance of these devices in our daily lives.

What is a sensor?

Any device designed to detect a specific parameter by giving off a signal or output is considered a sensor. Depending on the type of sensor, the output can either be electrical, mechanical, or digital. Many sensor manufacturers like specialise in building sensors for use in a variety of applications, most commonly industrial and rugged use while some suppliers manufacture sensors used in commercial electronics.

Different types of sensors used in electronics

By now, everyone knows that sensors play an integral role in electronics, appliances, transportation, and industrial processes. Some sensors which are commonly used in electronics are:

  • Temperature sensors. Temperature is an environmental factor that needs to be controlled for a variety of reasons. Some examples of sensors that measure temperature in electronic devices are thermocouples and thermistors.
  • Infrared sensors. This type of sensor looks like a small chip which consists of a photocell for detecting and emitting infrared light. It is primarily used in designing remote controls.
  • Ultrasonic transducer. This is a sensor that works using the same principle as sonar. An ultrasonic sensor can be applied to measure distance. This option is suitable when other traditional types of sensors are not viable such as when the working condition is subject to high temperatures or high pressure.
  • Touch sensors. By definition, a touch sensor is essentially a touch-activated switch. This type of sensor is used in applications involving process control, such as load control.

Engineers can design different sensor circuits for a variety of electronic applications. Similarly, many of these sensors can be modified to suit the requirements or specifications for their intended use.

Specific examples of sensors used in consumer devices

To illustrate further, here are some of the most common examples of sensors which are found in consumer devices.

  1. Mobile phones consist of accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect angular and linear motion. This helps with the auto-rotate feature of mobile phones today.
  2. Mobile phones with maps and digital compasses use magnetometers for effective navigation.
  3. Wearable fitness gadgets use PIRs or motion sensors.
  4. Appliances like air-conditioners, refrigerators, and coolers have temperature or humidity sensors.

In many ways, sophisticated sensor technology is present in almost any type of automated technology used today. There is no doubt that we can look forward to further advancements soon.


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