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Sensor Examples

Find out more about sensor examples including the different types.

In this article, you will discover some sensor examples.

Most of the input devices we’ve looked at so far are human-controlled — the keyboard, the mouse, the microphone. The original input, the information, is coming from you. Another type of input device is a sensor. The input for a sensor is whatever it is they are sensing. Think of the sensor for a security light. It is sensing movement to determine whether or not to turn the light on.

The output is the security light.

The input is the security light sensor.

This is a nice example of an automated computer system — the computer sensed input and delivered an output. Obviously the system was set up by a human but it runs with no human interaction. A lot of computer systems are automated. Can you think of another example? What are the advantages and disadvantages of automation?

When talking about automation it’s a good idea to show an example of industry automation. Try to find a video of a factory that makes something with automated machines. Point out the number (or lack of) people in the video. Discuss how long it would take humans to complete the task without automated machines and sensors.

Here’s a video of a mini being made in Oxford:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

What other automated computer systems that use sensors can you think of?

A thermostat in a house central heating system is another example of a system that uses a sensor. It is sensing the temperature in a house to determine when to tell the heating to turn on/off. This system is not just automated though, the temperature at which the heating will switch on or off can be adjusted. The heating system may also have several other inputs, often on a separate control panel. The heating system can be manually set so the heating can be on/off and the system can restrict the times of day that the thermostat is able to turn on the heating.

Whatever the sensor is, it needs to be connected to the system. Lots of automated systems use proprietary connections, while others will run on GPIO pins like those on a Raspberry Pi. Other systems use standard connectors like USB. Increasingly, sensors use wireless connections using WiFi or Bluetooth. Each connection comes with advantages and disadvantages. For example, the ease of use, the need for specific drivers, or reliability of wireless signals.

A nice lesson activity is to ask students to design the smart home of the future using input devices, sensors, output devices, and describe how they interact through automation. Ask them to label each device and describe what automation is. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages that automation gives to their smart home. Students really enjoy using their imagination when it comes to designing a home with the latest technology.

There are some Raspberry Pi projects available where you can program sensors using Python:

Has anyone tried creating an automated system in the classroom? How did it go? What advice do you have for others on which projects work best?

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Understanding Computer Systems

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