The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere, from your toothbrush to satellites, and IoT sensors use this connectivity to help companies reach their full potential. Accurate measurements of processes and remote IoT monitoring enable maximized systems performance, limit expenses, and reduce CO2 emissions.
IoT sensors are the backbone of the Internet of Things. But what is IoT really? It is a network of physical objects embedded with technology to stay connected with each other or monitor the surrounding environment.
IoT devices are usually part of a vast IoT architecture connected via the internet. IoT applications are many, such as environmental monitoring and control, predictive maintenance, industrial automation, energy conservation, health monitoring, fire detection, and much more.
- What are IoT sensors?
- How do IoT sensors work?
- Why are IoT sensors so useful?
- 11 common IoT sensor types
- Examples of how IoT sensors are used
- Why are IoT sensors a good investment for your company?
What are IoT sensors?
IoT sensors are electronic devices that can measure, monitor, and transmit data. They are internet-connected and usually remotely controlled. In many cases, IoT sensors are wireless and battery-powered. Most commonly, IoT sensors are used to monitor processes, activities, or environments.
IoT sensors collect data from vibrations, rotations, pressure, humidity, temperature, etc., and transfer info remotely to central databases for processing. This info enables companies to make informed decisions about how they operate their business.
Think of IoT as a living organism, like your body. The sensors are the nerve cells of IoT. They sense the physical state of their surroundings, communicate with each other, and send data to «the brain», which would be an IoT monitoring device, like a smartphone app.
Nerve cells are also called neurons, which is why we call our devices neuron sensors.
How do IoT sensors work?
IoT sensors operate by combining five different processes: Data collection, connectivity, storage, analysis, and reporting. Remember our nerve cell analogy? These five processes effectively turn the IoT sensors into a digital nervous system.
The IoT sensors can collect all kinds of data, like pressure, humidity, rotations, temperature, connectivity, vehicle tire health, and more. The IoT monitoring typically recurs every three seconds, with reports sent every other minute.
Connectivity makes IoT sensors incredibly useful since it allows for remote monitoring and distribution of information across networks. You can collect data from any number of devices and send it to the cloud for storage or analysis.
Data storage is an essential feature of IoT monitoring since the sensors collect data continuously. The storage size is rarely large, but the amount of information is considerable and enables comprehensive process and system analysis.
Analysis of data collected by IoT sensors is crucial to improve business performance. By interpreting large amounts of raw data, you get meaningful insights that help you adjust systems and processes to increase efficiency.
In this last step, useful data or its alarming state is sent to a smartphone, computer, SCADA, ERP, or CMMS to inform or alert the right person about the insight discovered by the sensors.
Why are IoT sensors so useful?
IoT sensors make consumption monitoring, performance monitoring, and risk prediction more proficient. In addition, IoT monitoring promotes efficiency by enabling remote control and constant surveillance of vital operations.
Applying IoT sensors ensures that your systems, machines, and processes operate at maximum capacity and optimal performance. Simultaneously, you can keep track of equipment and strategically employ maintenance to avoid production standstills.
IoT sensors function like nerve cells; they signal when you need to be careful and when it is safe to push your company harder. To clarify this, let’s consider a real-life example from one of our customers, a planing mill.
Example of performance enhancement by IoT monitoring of sawblade heat
In planing mills, you need to watch out for sawblade overheating. An overheated blade might lose tension and need replacement. The price of blade replacement isn’t all that much, but the standstill in production can be detrimental to the business.
To avoid a production standstill, our planing mill customer used its blade carefully to keep it from overheating. However, when applying IoT sensors to monitor the blade heat, they realized that it could be pushed much harder without overheating.
By IoT monitoring, planing mills know how hard to push the blades without risking overheating, thereby increasing their performance considerably. At the same time, they can plan maintenance when the factory is closed to avoid any standstills.
Neuron Infrared 380
Neuron Infrared 380 Sensor måler overflatetemperaturen på objektet den er rettet mot. Den er designet for industrielle temperaturmålinger og er i stand til å måle opptil 380°C med en nøyaktighet på opptil ±1°C.
11 common IoT sensor types
IoT sensors can practically monitor anything, and the applications are endless. During the Covid-19 pandemic, industry digitization accelerated to promote remote work and support social distancing.
IoT applications can support much more. By digitizing industry processes, remote control improves performance efficiency, risk management, and damage control. Here are the most common IoT sensor types El-Watch supplies to various industries:
1. Air temperature sensor
Air temperature sensors typically monitor the temperature in rooms, buildings, refrigerators, freezers, and fuse boxes. El-Watch Neuron Temperature IP21 product sheet
2. Surface temperature sensor
Typical applications of surface temperature sensors are overheating detection and prevention in cables, water heaters, fans, pumps, motors, machines, and other equipment. El-Watch Neuron Temperature IP67 product sheet
Neuron Temperature IP67
Neuron Temperature IP67 Sensor er en liten og kompakt sensor for måling av temperatur og er egnet for et bredt spekter av bruksområder.
3. Liquid temperature sensor
These sensors typically monitor the liquid temperature in pipes, cooling liquids in transformers, and other cooling fluids. El-Watch PT 100 Process Connection product sheet
4. Humidity sensor
Humidity sensors typically monitor closed environments, such as industrial production facilities, storage spaces, greenhouses, transformer stations, etc. El-Watch Neuron Humidity product sheet
Neuron Humidity Sensor måler relativ fuktighet i luften. I tillegg måler den omgivelsestemperaturen. Typiske bruksområder er hvor man vil ha en oversikt over miljøet i alle typer rom eller utendørs (så lenge det er lite væreksponert).
5. Pressure sensor
Typically, pressure sensors monitor liquid levels and water pressure in waterworks, pumping stations, and industrial processes. El-Watch Neuron Gauge Pressure product sheet
6. Vibration sensor
The vibration sensors are used for anomaly detection, predictive maintenance, machine optimization, and structural health monitoring. El-Watch Neuron Vibration product sheet
7. Non-contact temperature sensor (IR temperature sensor)
Non-contact temperature sensors monitor the temperature of rotating machinery like planing mill saw blades. El-Watch Neuron IR Temp product sheet
8. Water sensor
Typical uses of water sensors/detectors are to monitor for liquid or water leakage. It is commonly used in schools, warehouses, hotel pumping stations, residential buildings, etc. El-Watch Neuron Water Detector product sheet
9. Dry contact sensor
Dry contact sensors monitor contact between two connection points. This is useful when you need to log machine/equipment uptime, motor/overvoltage protection, monitoring valve/switch positions, etc. El-Watch Neuron Dry Contact product sheet
10. Open/closed sensor
These small magnetic sensors monitor and count changes in positions. Uses include checking traffic in doors, windows, industry gates, or other mechanical appliances that are open or closed. El-Watch Neuron Open/Closed product sheet
Neuron Open/Closed sensor
Neuron Open/Closed er en liten og kompakt magnetisk sensor som er egnet til å overvåke åpen/lukket-tilstand til blant annet dører, vinduer og porter.
11. Tire pressure monitoring system, TPMS
The tyre health system (THS) monitors the conditions of large vehicle tires. The tyre health sensors decrease trailer/truck downtime, increase tire lifetime, improve fuel economy, and reduce emissions. El-Watch Tyre Health System product sheet
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Examples of how IoT sensors are used
El-Watch’s wireless sensors are used in many industries. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of IoT monitoring in the world around us. Here are a handful of IoT applications to illustrate the endless capabilities, functions, and uses.
Industrial IoT application
The food industry benefits greatly from IoT monitoring. The criteria for keeping fresh and frozen foods are strict. Not only must food handling and temperatures always follow food safety regulations, but governments also require documentation of such.
By installing IoT sensors in supermarkets, restaurant freezers, or slaughterhouses, the temperature and humidity are measured every 30 seconds, and reports are stored every second minute. Irregularities immediately appear in the app. Some of the foremost advantages are lowered energy consumption and less food waste.
Food transport is met with equally strict criteria, making temperature and tire health sensors very useful. The latter monitors all tires and notifies the driver about changes in tire pressure. This prevents unwanted transport stops and enables strategic maintenance.
IoT sensors in healthcare
You might have guessed that IoT sensors can monitor patients’ vital signs. Through smartphones and watches, many of us already keep tabs on our heart, pulse, and body temperature.
But IoT in healthcare is a lot more elaborate and dramatically affects efficiency. One field that was ushered forth by the global Covid-19 pandemic was high-quality remote healthcare.
By connecting medical devices and healthcare professionals via IoT, many benefits have come to light. Increased operational efficiency, enhanced accessibility of services, improved patient safety, and reduced healthcare costs are key gains from IoT implementation in the healthcare industry.
Smart sensors in agriculture
Farmers use IoT sensors to collect data about water usage, soil quality, humidity, temperature, and light levels. This promotes efficient plant growth and prevents the waste of resources.
Additionally, smart sensors can monitor crop environments, like water quality, the presence of pests or diseases, and wind speeds/direction. This enables farmers to act faster when unforeseen natural changes occur.
Smart sensors gauge the health of plants and crops in real-time. This allows cultivators to make informed decisions about irrigation or fertilizer use based on environmental data from each plant’s location.
Furthermore, the ability to track crop information can improve food safety. By data collection, you can detect crops contaminated by pathogens such as E-coli or Salmonella before harvest (or at least within a few days).
The Internet of Things and smart cities
So-called «smart cities» use technology to improve the quality of life for their populace.
Smart cities use IoT sensors to monitor traffic flow, pollution levels, and water consumption. It also detects fires, water leakage, or floods before they become widespread problems.
IoT-powered smart cities aim to improve public safety, reduce traffic congestion, and lower energy consumption. Smart cities also promote eco-friendly, sustainable environments and remote delivery of healthcare services to citizens.
Smart cities get smarter with technological advancement, and IoT sensors are integral to this. Electronic biosensors, chemical sensors, and smart grid sensors are pivotal IoT «nerve cells» in smart cities. These «nervous systems» expand by the minute.
Why are IoT sensors a good investment for your company?
The most apparent benefit of IoT monitoring is that it enables remote management of complex systems – even smaller operations. IoT sensors can provide detailed information on machinery’s function and whether it runs efficiently every minute.
This enables you to act before costly breakdowns occur and prolongs your system longevity while saving money on maintenance. Simultaneously, it maps how hard you can push your machinery and equipment without the risk of breakdown, thus increasing performance.
Moreover, IoT monitoring is pivotal in the digital transformation of businesses. The result of such shifts is better resource allocation and improved workforce competency, which promotes efficiency and lowers production costs.
Finally, IoT in the transport industry improves vehicle safety, enables strategic traffic management, promotes efficient travel, and reduces emissions. UPC saves millions of dollars annually this way by identifying the shortest, most fuel-efficient routes.
Takeaway about IoT sensors
The Internet of Things (IoT) quickly becomes more widespread and connects devices to make them more functional. IoT sensors are the nerve cells, aka neurons, that make it all happen. They gather the information needed to improve all system processes.
IoT is beneficial for measuring, monitoring, and controlling many devices, equipment, and processes in the industry sector. This allows for improved performance, predictive maintenance, greater sustainability, and better allocation of resources.
If you liked this article, you’ll find many interesting ones on our webpage. How about this one, about how wireless sensors enable a sustainable manufacturing industry?
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IEEE: Intelligent IoT Sensors: Types, Functions, and Classification
Harvard Business School: Digital Transformation: A New Roadmap for Success
International Journal of Health Geographics: On the Internet of Things, smart cities, and the WHO Healthy Cities
IoT For All: What Are Wireless IoT Sensors and Why Are They Useful?
Journal of Healthcare Engineering: IoT-Based Applications in Healthcare Devices
ResearchGate: Smart Sensors: Analysis of Different Types of IoT Sensors
Science Direct: Improving Data Quality of Low-cost IoT Sensors in Environmental Monitoring Networks Using Data Fusion and Machine Learning Approach
TechTarget: Use cases and benefits of smart sensors for IoT
Verizon: IoT and society: Emerging truths and effects in daily life