Transducers and the Internet of Things

Transducers and the Internet of Things

Image credit: Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH

Since its inception, the internet has been connecting different people. Since then, a whole new type of internet has developed which connects people to things.

For example, scanners and barcodes can be used to connect information about packages to the internet, facilitating tracking until they are delivered. For industry, connecting equipment to the internet means companies can easily oversee and gain feedback into their production processes.

This technology is called the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and it is continually growing. The technology is expected to become increasingly reliant on transducers, which are used to sense information before the data is uploaded to the Internet.

The Two Types of Transducer

In its most simple form a transducer is a system that converts one type of energy (an input) into another (an output). There are two main types of transducers – actuators and sensors.

  • Actuators take information as an input and convert it into a physical form of energy. An example of this would be the vibration of a phone upon receiving a phone call – an actuator operates this process.
  • Sensors perform the opposite function of an actuator – they detect a form of energy, e.g. a force or light, as an input and convert this into a digital output signal. An example of this would be a thermocouple which provides an output in the form of a change of voltage following heating up or cooling down.

Industrial IoT

Transducers allow industry to use technological breakthroughs in analytics, big data and machine learning to optimize their processors. In these applications, transducers can be used to monitor machine performance – improving efficiency and avoiding downtime.

Using transducer technology alongside ‘big data’ allows previously unseen relationships present in production cycles to be seen. The result of this is better communication between manufacturing, engineering and support departments.

Industrial IoT is still a new concept meaning there are many opportunities for industrial players to be the first to capitalize on its benefits. The wave of disruption caused by IoT is set to shake up industries and create new leaders and new followers.

The Role of Transducers in IIOT

Analytics and other methods used in big data can be considered as the decision-making brains of IIOT, whereas transducers are the nervous system that supplies them with the rich data they need to make decisions. IIOT systems require a huge network of reliable and accurate sensors to determine system parameters such as temperature, spatial orientation, volume and pressure.

A great deal of attention is focused on how automation and machine learning is going to impact the future of industry. However these advancements in software are going to have limited reach without the use of advanced sensor systems.

For example, for the following uses of industrial transducers:

Force – Using strain gauges allows force to be rapidly and accurately measured. Strain gauges use the deformation of the system to determine the extent of a force applied, which is translated into a change in electrical resistance.

Temperature – Two different types of temperature sensor exist – contact and non-contact. These types can be further divided into electrical sensors, mechanical sensors, thermocouples, silicon band gap sensors and resistance thermometers. Temperature sensors are used to maintain the temperature in temperature sensitive applications.

Torque – Using a method similar to force gauges, strain gauges can also be used to determine torque. Many torque meters measure rotational velocity to determine the level of mechanical power (i.e. torque) applied.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH (HBM).

For more information on this source, please visit Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik GmbH (HBM).

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