Impulses that help us control our environment
A sensor is a device that responds to a physical stimulus such as heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism or motion and transmits an impulse that is used to generate an action, such as on-off, close/open or start/stop.
Open and close doors
Sensors are all around us; they are incredibly versatile tools, which are used in all kinds of automated processes – for example, to open and close doors, activate alarms, measure temperature or capture images. Essentially, anywhere you have a system with added intelligence, there is likely to be at least one sensor.
The rules that guide sensors and their work are an integral part of many IEC International Standards, for example the IEC 61508 series Functional Safety that was developed by IEC SC (Subcommittee) 65A: Industrial-process measurement, control and automation or IEC 61757, Fibre optic sensors, developed by IEC SC 86C: Fibre optic systems and active devices. IEC TC (Technical Committee) 47: Semiconductor devices, includes sensors in a number of its publications and so does IEC TC 76: Optical radiation safety and laser equipment; the list could go on and on. The fact is: a sensor is a component that can be used in a multitude of systems and devices. The field of application is enormous and comprises anything from semiconductors to Smart Grids, household devices to manufacturing, robotics and more.
Take, for example, the sensors that are used in intelligent buildings, where they allow power consumption to be detected, measured and controlled, and devices to be activated or shut-off. By relaying information to intelligent systems, sensors help detect whether or not a room is occupied, and measure ambient temperature to enable lighting, heating and air-conditioning to be controlled automatically. Wind-speed can be measured to provide automatic opening and closing of shutters; obstacles and passing people can be sensed to allow doors to open and close automatically and elevators can be made to stop smoothly at exactly the right level.
Sensors have a bright future in our increasingly automated world.
Find out more
- S+ IEC 61508Functional safety of electrical/electronic/programmable electronic safety-related systems - ALL PARTS together with a commented Redline version
- IEC 61757-1Fibre optic sensors - Part 1: Generic specification
- IEC TC 47Semiconductor devices
- IEC SC 65ASystem aspects
- IEC TC 76Optical radiation safety and laser equipment
- IEC SC 86CFibre optic systems and active devices