In this article we’re going to introduce you to a very powerful group of devices called Smart Sensors. The Smart Sensor plays a very important role in the Smart Factory of Industry 4.0 which is considered as the fourth revolution of the manufacturing industry. The “First Revolution” brought us steam and water-powered mechanization. The “Second Revolution” introduced mass production using electricity. The “Third Revolution” established automated manufacturing processes using computers and robotics. And now the “Fourth Revolution” has launched the Internet of Things or IoT and the Smart Factory.

What makes a “Base Sensor” different than a “Smart Sensor”? Before we get to that question, let’s review what a base sensor is, what it does, and how it is integrated into process control loops. A “base sensor” is a device that “senses” something. For many years we’ve had sensors that can see, feel, hear, smell, and even taste.

In the world of instrumentation and process control we define a “Sensor” as a device that detects changes in physical properties and produces an electrical output in response to that change. A “Thermocouple” is a temperature sensor that will produce an increasing voltage across it when exposed to an increasing temperature. In industry today, thousands of thermocouples are connected to transmitters in temperature process control loops. In process control, we condition the thermocouple voltage and convert it to an industry standard signal that represents our controlled temperature range.

OK…..so….what if we had a sensor that did more than sense singular basic physical properties? What if we had a sensor that also performs data conversion, digital processing, and can communicate to external devices and “The Cloud”? In very general terms a “Smart Sensor” has a “base sensor”, a “microprocessor”, is “communication-capable”, and has some form of onboard diagnostics. Smart Sensors are capable of a variety of functions and options. Smart Sensors can perform self-assessments and self-calibration. They can detect issues such as “sensor contamination”, “switch failures”, and “open coils”. Some Smart Sensors are capable of multi-sensing and can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, gas flow and more. Smart Sensors play a very important role in the new era of “manufacturing intelligence”. They will become more and more important as industry develops increasingly sophisticated and complex processes.

The Smart Sensor plays a very important role in Industry 4.0 which is considered as the fourth revolution of the manufacturing industry. A Smart Sensor can do more than sense singular basic physical properties. A Smart Sensor can perform data conversion, digital processing, and can communicate to external devices and “The Cloud”. A “Smart Sensor” has a “base sensor”, a microprocessor, is communication-capable, and has some form of onboard diagnostics. Smart Sensors are capable of a variety of functions and options. Some Smart Sensors are capable of multi-sensing and can measure pressure, temperature, humidity, gas flow and more.

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