How smart sensors are transforming the Internet of Things

Smart sensors are key in developing IoT applications for manufacturing as they help modernize and streamline analytics and connectivity.

The Internet of Things (IoT) couldn’t exist without smart sensors, and the growing use of smart technology is already transforming how manufacturers implement the IoT. Smart sensors are also bringing more connectivity and analytics to the supply chain. There are some things to know about how and why this is happening.

First, smart sensors are the indispensable enablers of the IoT and the industrial IoT. Smart sensors, including radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, serve three broad purposes. They identify items, locate them and determine their environmental conditions, all of which have major implications for the supply chain and manufacturing. Smart sensors are particularly useful in plants or warehouses because they can keep track of temperature and humidity, log data for historical records and quality management, or be used as triggers for alarms or process management.

Second, smart sensors impact the supply chain by being embedded in products, which can help improve the manufacturing process or the products themselves. Sensors can live inside products to create “smart products” and  new revenue sources from the enhanced features. They can also permeate the manufacturing process to monitor, control, and improve operations, or be added to logistics to streamline how products are delivered. There are a number of specific purposes of sensors, such as measuring temperature, humidity, vibrations, motion, light, pressure and altitude. Companies will need to develop new applications to take advantage of all the big data that the sensors are generating.

Third, the lower costs and more advanced capabilities of RFID tags are starting to enable wider and more effective use. The cost of RFID, which has come down dramatically, is in more than just the tag itself. To determine the true cost per use you have to include the software applications and deployment costs. The combination of lowered costs for tags and improved capabilities means that their value proposition has changed, and represents an opportunity for enterprises to rethink RFID.

Next Steps

Read a critique of the IoT hype

Learn about other IoT challenges

Understand IoT security issues

This was last published in July 2015

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What is the greatest benefit, in your opinion, of using smart sensors to advance IoT?
I still want to know how they're going to handle some of the infrastructure issues with the IoT. How much bandwidth is all this stuff going to take up? Where is it all going to be stored, and who's going to pay for that? What are the security issues? We do a lot of handwaving about how wonderful it's all going to be but I wonder how we're going to have a factory with all sorts of things emanating waves out and not interfere with each other.