Definition

smart sensor

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Framing your enterprise IoT approach
Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A smart sensor is a device that takes input from the physical environment and uses built-in compute resources to perform predefined functions upon detection of specific input and then process data before passing it on.

Smart sensors enable more accurate and automated collection of environmental data with less erroneous noise amongst the accurately recorded information. These devices are used for monitoring and control mechanisms in a wide variety of environments including smart grids, battlefield reconnaissance, exploration and a great number of science applications.

The smart sensor is also a crucial and integral element in the Internet of Things (IoT), the increasingly prevalent environment in which almost anything imaginable can be outfitted with a unique identifier (UID) and the ability to transmit data over the Internet or a similar network. One implementation of smart sensors is as components of a wireless sensor and actuator network (WSAN) whose nodes can number in the thousands, each of which is connected with one or more other sensors and sensor hubs as well as individual actuators.

Compute resources are typically provided by low-power mobile microprocessors. At a minimum, a smart sensor is made of a sensor, a microprocessor and communication technology of some kind. The compute resources must be an integral part of the physical design -- a sensor that just sends its data along for remote processing is not considered a smart sensor.

A smart sensor may also include a number of other components besides the primary sensor.  These components can include transducers, amplifiers, excitation control, analog filters and compensation. A smart sensor also incorporates software-defined elements that provide functions such as data conversion, digital processing and communication to external devices.

See a demonstration of an IoT smart sensor hub:

This was last updated in October 2015

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