How Sensors are Advancing Electronics Technology, Part 1

Sensor technology is rapidly advancing in electronics. In this series I look at various sensors and their end applications. I will also look at the electronics that convert sensor input in both analog and digital signaling.

According to the Automotive Sensors and Electronics 2017 — Conference and Expo, “Currently, each vehicle has an average of 60-100 sensors on board. Because cars are rapidly getting ‘smarter’ the number of sensors is projected to reach as many as 200 sensors per car. These numbers translate to approximately 22 billion sensors used in the automotive industry per year by 2020.“

Sensors started out as basic components such as gas tank level detectors, temperature sensors, and oil pressure sensors where a change in voltage moved the needle on an analog gauge. These cir-cuits provided a resistance change which in turn was read as a voltage level. What was once an analog reading is now a digitally displayed number thanks to Analog to Digital Converters or ADCs.

Automobiles aren’t the only area that sensors are advancing. Factories are using sensors in many ways to enhance intelligence, improve quality, and accelerate production. Traditional man-ufacturing no doubt has evolved over the past century. Big drivers are the demand for increased productivity and flexibility as well as improved safety and security – all at lower costs. Indus-try’s answer? Smart factories.

Texas Instruments recognizes this opportunity and has created a publication titled, “Advancing the Smart Factory Through Sensor Technology “. In their words3 ,“ The smart factory repre-sents a fundamental change in how production processes are set up and organized. The smart factory also serves to decentralize manufacturing, provide greater intelligence where production activities take place, and create an overall system that is cognitive and self-healing. In addition, the changes coming with the next industrial revolution are not strictly limited to what is traditionally considered manufacturing. Rather, what is envisioned is a system of learning and adaptation that can cover the whole product life cycle, from engineering and production, to maintenance and upgrading, to disas-sembly and recycling. Electronic intelligence at every stage of this chain can add value to the product, improve customer satisfaction, and achieve broader goals such as saving energy and reducing material waste.”

Like TI, many companies have formed sensor product divisions. TE Connectivity is one of the largest sensor companies in the world. On Semiconductor and Microchip have sensor product lines. Appliances have a number of sensors as well. From sensing temperature in dryers to water levels in washers, sensors play an important role.

Sensors have long been used to sense temperature in semiconductors. One popular method is to measure the variance in voltage across a diode that is biased with a specific level of current. This in turn triggers a circuit when the device over heats.

This will be a fun series to investigate. As always, reader input is welcome. If you application folks would like your products covered, let me know.


  1. The Automotive Sensors and Electronics 2017 Conference and Expo
  2. Advances in Sensor Technology En-hance the Smart Factory, Arrow Electronics web page, 13 Nov 2015
  3. Advancing the Smart Factory Through Sensor Technology, Texas Instruments, publication sszy013
  4. Texas Instruments sensor products web page
  5. TE Connectivity
  6. ON Semiconductor website
  7. Microchip sensor web page

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