Smart Sensors

At a glance

On the Internet of Things, numerous devices and applications rely on receiving real-time readings from various sensors. In the world of networked production systems of industry 4.0., this task is performed by smart sensors. However, intelligent sensors can do more than just measuring: they offer additional functions that are helpful in networked systems and contribute to a decentralized structure and more flexibility in the use of the devices.

Conventional sensors vs. smart sensors

A conventional sensor can usually only record measured variables and pass on the raw data obtained. A classic light sensor, for example, only passes on the brightness value it has measured, while other components perform calculations or instructions. Intelligent (or smart) sensors offer additional functionality that is useful on the Internet of Things. It integrates hardware that can be used for further calculations. This includes, for example, the processing of signals directly in the sensor or extended information about their environment and themselves. For example, a smart light sensor could interpret in real time what the measured value means, or perform a calculation before sharing this result with other devices in its network.

Integration via fieldbus

Intelligent sensors are therefore not exclusively physical sensors internally, but have their own microprocessor and various interfaces such as USB or Bluetooth, which connect them to the outside world. The advantage of such fieldbus systems is that all directly connected devices are closely connected. This optimizes communication through shorter signal paths and high availability of the individual components. Such systems are ideal wherever fast and reliable communication between measuring and control devices is a high priority. The IoT bus from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS), for example, has been developed specifically for the Internet of Things and combines the advantages of fieldbuses with an IPv6 interface for integration into networked systems.

Smart Sensors in Industry 4.0

Intelligent sensors are often already permanently integrated in machines of the latest generation in order to make them ready for use in the Industrial Internet of Things. They are crucial for automating countless production and logistics processes: Only through constant feedback from the sensors is it possible for machines to communicate efficiently with each other and make intelligent decisions.