(Reproduced from Sensors Online magazine)
Small, portable, adaptable optical sensors offer robust performance for intelligent solutions in a wide variety of connected applications and performance environments. Their inherent flexibility and integration capabilities give designers a programmable option that allows manufacturers to take advantage of volume cost savings and the ability to get their systems to market quickly.
In a data-driven world, connected devices have created profound impact. Smartphones are essentially a vast, globally distributed network of connected cameras, while the more recent introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystems is creating other widely distributed networks of highly instrumented devices. We don’t yet know the full impact of these emergent networks. We do know, however, that most of their utility relies upon deploying one or more sensors to detect a change in diverse environments of the real world—such as a heart rate, system temperature, or moisture measurement in a crop field—and turn it into an electrical signal that can be measured. This challenge requires sensors that are highly integrated, small, robust, stable over the long term, and draw little power if they are to meet the needs of IoT devices and service the trend toward increased portability. They also need to be adaptable as it’s likely that the measurement capabilities demanded of devices in the field will evolve while they are in use.
Versatility And Performance In Optical Sensors
One of the most versatile tools in these situations is the optical sensor which can look at things (such as products on a manufacturing line), through things (such as liquids flowing through tubes), or at reflections off things (such as surfaces that have been processed in some way). However, achieving the kind of accurate, repeatable measurements that make later analysis meaningful isn’t easy. For example, as anyone who has fitted a screen protector to their phone will know, there are an increasing number of materials available with low reflectance.
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