IoT Sensors: What They Are and How to Use Them

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This article was written by Rhuan Souza. Scroll down for the author’s bio.


For a very long time, businesses in various industries have been using smart sensors. However, with the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), their significance has increased.

Sensors represent the beginning of a data collection chain that, when processed by IoT platforms, generates essential insights for assertive decision-making and even for developing new business ideas.

Generally, a smart sensor has three main components:

  • A sensor that captures data from the environment or a piece of equipment,

  • A microprocessor that analyzes the sensor’s output via an algorithm, and

  • Communication resources that tell a microprocessor to take action.

This technology is already used in many countries. It has broad applications for many industries, like agriculture, medicine, autonomous cars, smart homes, and smart cities.

That said, in this article, we’ll explore more about IoT sensors and their use.


What is an IoT sensor?

IoT sensors collect information from the environment and communicate with the system, allowing the various components of this system to exchange data with each other and not just with the person or software that controls the sensors.

A smart sensor can be a collection of several sensors, as well as transducers, transceivers, amplifiers, analog filters, and a power supply, among other components.

To be most effective, IoT sensors must use some type of wireless communication, such as Wi-fi or Bluetooth, be robust enough to collect and then transmit data remotely, and be programmable to accommodate new features.

Main types of IoT sensors

IoT sensor types vary according to their function. Let’s look at some of the most commonly used types.

Motion sensors

With the use of infrared radiation, ultrasonic pulses, or microwave radiation, motion sensors can track the physical movements of individuals, animals, and objects within a given space. From home automation to industrial manufacturing, motion sensors continue to grow in popularity. They have various uses, such as a security system detecting intruders or helping to turn on lights when someone enters a room.

These sensors wirelessly communicate data to other gadgets or systems for real-time monitoring and automation. Motion sensors play a significant role in the IoT ecosystem due to their interoperability with other IoT devices and systems.

Proximity sensors

Proximity sensors are already very present in our lives.

One of the best examples of a proximity sensor is shopping mall parking lots, where a light above each parking space indicates to drivers at a distance whether a space is occupied by a car or not. This application has a low cost compared to using cameras or employees to keep track of vacant spots. In addition, proximity sensors can collect information such as the volume of shoppers and the busiest hours, and thus, they have many commercial benefits if businesses know how to harness the data the sensors acquire.


An accelerometer’s job is to measure linear acceleration, static incline, and vibration. The bulk of our cell phones have accelerometers.

A very common application is what happens when you rotate your cell phone screen: the sensor detects the screen’s movement based on its sensitivity to gravity, and the screen rotates to accommodate the movement. Accelerometers also guide GPS by determining what direction you’re moving. And smartwatches use an accelerometer to measure the speed and distance of the wearer’s movements; they provide a reasonably accurate estimate of the calories we burn.

Pressure sensors

These sensors track and transmit changes in pressure levels to find leaks, and keep an eye on fluid flow in sectors like industry, healthcare, and agriculture. They can also detect changes in air pressure, and alert drivers to changes in tire pressure. As part of the IoT, they can wirelessly communicate data to a central database to enable real-time monitoring and analysis. This makes it possible to identify increases or decreases in pressure early and take preventative action before they become serious problems. They are a viable option for many businesses because they are frequently compact and affordable.

Infrared sensors

Infrared sensors can measure temperature and identify movement by detecting radiation emitted by objects in their range of view. They can monitor temperature, pressure, and motion. For example, they can create a precise map of the temperature in different parts of a room and even detect small changes in temperature caused by people moving through a room. Security systems, automatic lighting systems, and environmental monitoring systems frequently employ them. Infrared sensors can be remotely linked to a centralized system using IoT technology, enabling real-time data analysis and control. Overall, IoT infrared sensors have become an important component in a wide range of applications, enabling better control, monitoring, and automation.

Temperature sensors

Temperature sensors can work via direct contact with the object they monitor, while others can work from a distance using infrared radiation. Both types can wirelessly transmit information for IoT integration. Temperature sensors can make air conditioners and heating systems work more efficiently by helping to automatically control the temperature of rooms, entire houses, and industrial buildings. They save energy and reduce electricity bills.

These sensors have applications in different industries, including home automation, healthcare, and industrial manufacturing. In homes and businesses, they lead to improved comfort for occupants. In industrial manufacturing, temperature sensors monitor the temperature of machines and materials, helping identify potential manufacturing issues and improve overall efficiency.

Humidity sensors

Humidity sensors can measure moisture in both air and soil. The hygrometer, a soil moisture sensor primarily used in agriculture, can potentially revolutionize planting for food production.

Plants require moisture to grow; measuring the moisture level using sensors helps determine whether plants are properly nourished. You can use sensors to control a water pump, turning it on or off as needed to reach an ideal humidity level.

The agriculture industry gains a lot from using these sensors. We can water each type of plant according to its needs. Humidity sensors help make agriculture more sustainable, by making planting more efficient and saving water. For example, you obviously can’t control rainfall, but you can control land drainage based on information from moisture sensors.

Some use cases for IoT sensors

IoT sensors have contributed to a significant shift in how humans engage with technology. These compact yet robust devices can gather data from objects and communicate it to digital systems, allowing us to automate numerous tasks and make better decisions. As technology develops, we’ll see more and more applications for IoT sensors.

Industrial manufacturing

In industrial manufacturing, companies use IoT sensors to enhance efficiency and optimize processes. IoT sensors can collect data on machine performance, production rates, and energy consumption to identify areas for improvement. Sensors can detect when a machine is experiencing a problem and alert maintenance staff before it causes a breakdown.

Environmental monitoring

IoT sensors are being utilized more and more to monitor the environment and offer real-time data on the quality of the air and water. In rivers and lakes, sensors can monitor water quality changes to locate pollution sources. Similarly, air quality sensors can find contaminants, including ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particle matter. When bad air or water quality is present, organizations can alert the public and use that information to help with policy decisions.


By enabling remote patient monitoring and enhancing the precision of medical devices, IoT sensors can transform the healthcare sector. Wearable technology collects vital sign data and sends it in real-time to healthcare professionals. Producers of medical devices, like pacemakers and insulin pumps, use IoT sensors to improve the precision and dependability of their devices.


Long story short

The intended purpose of the Internet of Things is to make the internet go beyond computers to encompass diverse devices in an interconnected universe. One can remotely and dynamically manage various tasks, from the most basic to the most complex, adding efficiency to the countless processes that make our society work. Over time, we’ll see more and more devices with IoT actuators and sensors, enriching this technology’s wide range of uses.

IoT sensors enable data collection and transmission from physical objects to digital systems. They have various uses in home automation, edge computing, healthcare, and industrial manufacturing. As technology advances, more use cases will continue to emerge. IoT sensors will become more advanced and ubiquitous in the future, leading to a greater impact on various industries. IoT sensors can potentially transform industries and create new opportunities for innovation.

About the author

This post was written by Rhuan Souza. Rhuan is a software engineer who has experience with infrastructure. Rhuan is currently working as a full-stack web developer. He’s a passionate developer who focuses not only on code, but also wants to help change processes, and make people’s lives easier.