The first edition of Understanding Smart Sensors, published in 1995, began with “just about everything today in the technology area is a candidate for having a smart prefix added to it.” However, the term “smart sensor” dates to the mid-1980s.
The final chapter reiterated that “the much too frequently used smart prefix is used to described anything that is an improvement over a previous version of a technology.” It provided six examples of smart things that are no longer or not commonly used. However, thanks to the capabilities of smart sensors, today it is easy to identify ten technology areas that are a strategic focus for many engineers and planners. These include:
- Smart Home
- Smart City City of Scottsdale – Scottsdale Smart City Initiative (scottsdaleaz.gov)
- Smart Transportation (Cars/Automobiles)
- Smart Grid
- Smart Building
- Smart Agriculture
- Smart Medical/Healthcare
- Smart Wearable
- Smart Environmental Monitoring What is a smart environmental monitoring ? Definition and Details (paessler.com)
- Smart Manufacturing/Industry
Other modern smart terms identified in the third edition of Understanding Smart Sensors, published in 2014, include smart phones, smart appliances, smart pumps, smart meters and more. The smarts in the smart sensors used in these smart things and almost any electronic product comes from the computational capabilities provided by microcontrollers (MCUs), digital signal processors (DSPs), application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) or other digital logic devices. This was the basis of the first smart sensors.
However, today’s smart sensors frequently communicate their data wirelessly and are not connected to the power grid. As a result, the requirements for many smart sensors include communications, power control and even energy harvesting technology. The type of communications, wireless and wired, can vary greatly depending on the smart category. Also, the power control requirements can be as straightforward as battery management to quite complicated to ensure efficiency and maximum sensor life with minimal maintenance.