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Section 2.

3
Sensors

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Key Words
The following words will crop up as part of the following presentation.
You should use your notes sheet to log information about them when it is
covered. You will be quizzed on these words later.

Sensors
Data
Analogue
Temperature
Pressure

Light
Sound
Humidity
pH

NOTE:
Sections of the presentation where you see the following symbol
contains information about these keywords. This is your cue to
make notes.

Sensors

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Definition:

A device which inputs information into a computer, where the data is


constantly changing and can be measured.

Overview of Sensors:

Used to detect information in the surrounding environment that


constantly changes. For example:
Temperature
Light
Pressure

measuring heat in a room


controlling street lights
setting off a burglar alarm

This information is physical and analogue at the point it is


detected.

Computers dont understand analogue data and therefore it is


converted to digital (e.g. 1s and 0s) using an analogue to digital
converter (ADC). The computer can then read the data.

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Examples of Sensors

Temperature

Pressure

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Examples of Sensors (2)

Light

Sound

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Examples of Sensors (3)

Humidity

pH

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Uses of Sensors
Sensors are used in Monitoring and Control applications.
When monitoring, the data is sent directly to some sort of a computer
and is then processed and used.
For example:
Think about if a burglar climbs through a window and walks through an
alarms light sensor. The computer inside the alarm will pick up on the
broken light signal and use this information to sound the alarm.
Sensors can be used for a wide range of data collection and everyday
applications.
For example:
Taking measurements in scientific experiments.
Measuring pollution in the atmosphere.
Sensing the temperature in a room and using this to either turn a
heating system on or off.
Automatic doors open themselves when they detect a person nearby.

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Types of Sensors

Type of Sensor

Used for:

Temperature

Automatic washing machines, Central heating systems,


Automatic greenhouses, Cookers.

Pressure

Burglar alarm systems, Washing machines, Robotics,


Environmental monitoring.

Light

Automatic greenhouses, Automatic doors, Burglar alarm


systems, Street lighting control.

Sound

Burglar alarm systems, Voice recognition systems (like


using a voice command to start a car).

Humidity/
Moisture

Automatic greenhouses, Environmental monitoring,


Agriculture, Factories that manufacture items that can be
ruined by too much air moisture (microchips etc).

pH

Automatic greenhouses, Chemical manufacturing,


Environmental monitoring, Aquariums (wrong pH can
kill fish).

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Advantages/Disadvantages of Sensors
Advantages

Readings taken using sensors are more accurate than those taken by a
human.
Sensors can monitor information constantly (They dont get tired like
humans can).

Sensors can respond to information immediately (Burglar alarms goes off as


soon as an intruder is detected).
System can be automatic so no need for humans to operate the sensor. This
can be useful if gathering the information is hazardous like in detecting
radiation levels for example.

Disadvantages
Faulty sensors can give incorrect results.
For example: if the sensors on the rear bumper of a car become dirty they
may not identify an obstacle and cause you to crash.

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Graphics Tablets and Light Pens


NOTE:
Graphics Tablets and Light Pens are also examples of sensors. For more
information about these two devices see the Input Devices section on the
IGCSE Menu.