Imagine how difficult and dangerous life would be without having our senses to rely on. We wouldn’t be able to grab a door handle or tea cup, or taste whether a piece of fruit is ripe and ready to eat. Worse still, we wouldn’t smell the smoke from a distant fire, feel the heat of a burning-hot stove or hear a car coming…
Our sensory cells respond to physical or chemical phenomena such as sound waves and organic molecules, sending signals to the brain where they are then interpreted. Provided with this situational awareness, we can stay out of harm’s way with the right tools to face the challenges and perils of daily life. But in today’s world, our senses are not sufficiently sharpened to provide the level of comfort and security we need, which is why we rely on an ever-increasing range of sensors to help us to manage our lives.
What are sensors and why are they so important?
Sensors are devices, modules, or subsystems that detect and respond to input from the physical environment. Their signals are then converted to a display panel or transmitted electronically for processing by computers.
Modern cars have all sorts of features to help ensure a safe, comfortable ride. Short-range radar systems measure the distance and velocity of the vehicle in front of you, and are used in adaptive cruise control systems as well as speed cameras along the road. Electromagnetic or ultrasonic sensors help the driver to avoid a collision when parking while proximity sensors tell them how close they are to the vehicle ahead. (These also play a key role in autonomous driving.) Sensor technology is also behind smart parking, helping the driver to find a big enough spot. Automatic braking systems can even detect objects in a car’s path and make a vehicle stop for a pedestrian if the brakes are not applied on time.
Speed, seatbelt, suspension height and steering angle sensors are among the many other features of a modern vehicle, not to mention the sensors used to measure fuel and engine temperature as well as exhaust oxygen and emissions levels. And so it goes on…
The potential applications for sensors are endless. There are already health-monitoring devices that send out an alarm signal to carers when help is needed, for example, and a really smart smartphone will know when you are in a meeting and silence itself automatically.
From humanitarian relief to defence, manufacturing, medicine, robotics and aerospace, sensors can be applied to every aspect of life. That’s why they make such good sense.