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What Are Sensors – Types, Applications, and Effects on the Future of Technology
Jessica Hopkins

Sensors are critical components of devices and embedded systems, providing the ability to capture data from the environment and provide feedback that can be used by the system to make decisions. Different sensors can be used for different applications, depending on the type of data that needs to be collected and measured. For instance, sensors can detect changes in physical or environmental conditions such as temperature, pressure, light, and sound. In this blog, we will explain what sensors are, the different types, how they are used to help operate embedded systems, and how sensors are aiding the in the development of future technologies.

What Are Sensors?

Sensors are devices or components often integrated into larger, complex systems that detect and respond to physical inputs or stimuli from the environment and convert them into measurable signals or data. They are used in various fields and applications, including science, engineering, manufacturing, and everyday consumer electronics.

Different Types of Sensors

Sensors come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small chips with sensors integrated inside them to large bulky sensors that require an external power source. They can also be classified based on their application, such as measuring temperature, pressure, humidity, acceleration, motion, direction, and more.

Some examples of these types of sensors include:

Temperature sensor: Measures temperature changes and provides output in the form of electrical signals or temperature values.

Pressure sensor: Measures changes in pressure or force and converts them into electrical signals or pressure values.

Light sensor: Detects the presence or intensity of light and can be used for various purposes, such as automatic brightness adjustment in displays or triggering actions in response to light levels.

Motion sensor: Detects movement or changes in position and is commonly used in security systems, automatic doors, and gaming consoles.

Proximity sensor: Detects the presence or proximity of an object without physical contact and is often used in touchless technology, such as automatic faucets.

Accelerometer: Measures acceleration or changes in velocity and is commonly found in smartphones, gaming controllers, and vehicles for various applications, including orientation detection.

Gyroscope: Measures and detects angular motion or orientation, specifically focusing on rotational or angular movement and is often used in navigation systems, robotics, and virtual reality devices.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging): Measures distances and creates detailed 3D maps of the surrounding environment using laser beams and is often used for operating autonomous vehicles and robotics.

Hygrometer: Measures humidity, or the amount of moisture or water vapor present in the air, within any gaseous environment.

How Sensor Data is Used by Embedded Systems to Make Decisions

To better understand how sensors contribute to the overall operation of a device or embedded system, it’s important to discuss the relationship between sensors and different system components and the process it takes to turn sensor data into meaningful calculations and actions.

Sensors are incorporated into a device or system to collect real-world data, such as temperature, pressure, or motion, etc. These physical parameters are converted into electrical signals which can be analog or digital. If the sensor provides an analog output, an Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) is often used to convert the analog signal into digital form, which the Central Processing Unit, or CPU, is able to process.

Subsequently, additional signal processing techniques may be applied to the sensor data, including signal filtering or noise cancellation in order to accurately measure characteristics of the physical environment.

The CPU then executes software algorithms to process the sensor data. These algorithms can be designed to perform tasks such as data analysis, pattern recognition, statistical calculations, or control decisions based on the sensor readings.

The processed sensor data is interpreted by the CPU to extract meaningful information or generate appropriate responses or actions. This may involve comparing the sensor data against predefined thresholds, applying mathematical models, or employing machine learning techniques to identify patterns or anomalies in the data. Essentially, the raw sensor data is converted into actionable insights or commands.

Based on the interpretation of the sensor data, the CPU can trigger appropriate actions or responses. This can involve adjusting system parameters, generating output signals, or sending commands to other components or devices. For instance, in terms of using a thermostat, a CPU may decide to activate a cooling fan or adjust the heating system based on temperature readings from the sensor.

thermostat on wall in home Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Real-World Applications of Sensors in Different Industries

Sensors play a crucial role in our everyday life applications across numerous industries, enhancing our comfort, safety, and efficiency.


Sensors have revolutionized the healthcare industry by enabling accurate and real-time patient monitoring. From wearable fitness trackers to implantable sensors, these devices capture vital signs, track activity levels, and help detect anomalies. They play a crucial role in remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and improving the overall quality of care through continuous data collection and analysis.


In the automotive sector, sensors are widely employed to improve performance, increase safety, and enable advanced driver assistance systems. Sensors are essential for allowing vehicles to perceive their surroundings, monitor important parameters, and make decisions for a safer and more effective driving experience. This includes proximity sensors for parking assistance, tire pressure sensors for optimal maintenance, accelerometers for stability control, and LiDAR sensors for autonomous driving.


In the aerospace industry, sensors are integral to ensuring safe and efficient operation of the aircraft. In addition to tracking altitude, airspeed, and temperature, they also keep an eye on engine performance, look for structural stress and vibration, and supply vital information to navigation and control systems.


Sensors have significantly advanced the agricultural sector and transformed farming methods. Soil sensors detect levels of moisture and nutrient content, allowing for precise fertilization and irrigation that maximizes crop yield. Environmental sensors keep track of the weather, enabling farmers to manage resources, plant, and control pests with precision. Additionally, sensors help with livestock monitoring, guaranteeing the welfare of the animals and raising agricultural productivity.

Home Automation

Sensors are essential assets to home automation. With the ability to detect motion, light, temperature, humidity, and even the quality of the air, sensors are able to automate the control of security, heating, ventilation, and lighting systems within our homes. By collecting real-time data from sensors, home automation systems give homeowners more convenience and control over their living spaces by optimizing energy usage, enhancing comfort, and enhancing safety.

How Sensors Will Influence the Future of Technology

Sensors have not only been vital to the development and inner-workings of the devices and machines we use every day by measuring and interpreting the physical world, they are also pivotal in the advancement of newer, more advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).

By constantly monitoring and capturing critical information, sensors allow for the creation of real-time, highly responsive systems. This real-time data empowers AI algorithms and machine learning models to make accurate and informed decisions, leading to improved automation, enhanced safety measures, and optimized resource allocation.

Sensors are also critical attributes to the progression and advancement of IoT. As billions of devices become interconnected, powerful sensors allow for the seamless exchange of valuable data and information, unlocking opportunities for improved efficiency, productivity, and connectivity across various applications and industries from healthcare to agriculture.

As sensor technology continues to evolve and integrate into our daily lives, it will continue to have a monumental impact on society, shaping a future that is increasingly interconnected, intelligent, and responsive to our needs.

Test and Debug your Embedded Systems with Total Phase

I2CSPIUSB, and CAN are common communication protocols used within embedded systems. Total Phase offers several tools to allow embedded systems engineers to develop and/or debug their devices.

By using our I2C/SPI host adapters, users can easily emulate I2C or SPI master or slave devices to test the validity of the system as a whole. For instance, by using a master device, users can inject messages onto the bus in order to review communication and behavior between devices. It can also be used to emulate a master device to evaluate peripherals such as sensors and memory chips, and can also be used to emulate a slave device to test commands sent from MCUs.

Our line of protocol analyzers also allows users to non-intrusively monitor bus traffic in real time, making it simple to gain insight into the bus and any protocol or bus errors.

A breakdown and comparison of our line of I2C/SPI host adapters and protocol analyzers can be found here.

A breakdown and comparison of our USB protocol analyzers can be found here.

Our CAN offerings can be found here as well.


Overall, sensors are an integral part of how devices and embedded systems function, allowing them to perceive and interpret real-world data to make decisions. With the abundance of different sensors available in the embedded space, such as light, proximity, temperate, etc., systems across various industries are capable of performing safe and efficient operations. With advancements in sensor technology, we can expect even more improvements in technologies such as automation, AI, and IoT, enabling us to build technologies that are smarter and more reliable than ever before.