Sensored all the way

How to make sure devices and systems are smart and safe

By Claire Marchand

Sensors: they are invisible, most people don’t even know what they look like, but they are omnipresent today. They have a major impact on our home and work environments and are making our lives much safer and easier in many ways.

Bosch Sensortec
The BME280 sensor combines pressure, humidity and temperature measurement (Photo: Bosch Sensortec)

Ubiquitous sensors: from smart devices...

Smartphones or tablets wouldn’t exist without sensors. The proximity sensor that determines how close the phone is to your face or the accelerometer and gyroscope that detect the rotation and movement of the device and allow the switch between landscape and portrait modes are only two of the numerous sensors that equip these devices today.

...to public facilities...

They have brought a new level of hygiene to public washrooms and kitchens. Having touchless soap dispensers or automatic faucets in hospitals, restaurants, schools, and any public buildings help eliminate the spreading of germs.

...to vehicles

Cars fitted out with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) may be few these days, but as is the case with all technological advances, they will eventually equip all vehicles and contribute to an increase in road safety. ADAS provide many interesting features, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, night vision or collision warning systems with automatic steering and braking intervention. These automated safe systems are paving the way for tomorrow's fully autonomous cars.

None of this would be possible without sensors.

Higher safety levels

Sensors and sensor systems are a key underpinning technology for a wide range of applications. They can be used to improve quality control and productivity in manufacturing processes by monitoring variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and composition. They help ensure the environment is clean and healthy by monitoring the levels of toxic chemicals and gases emitted in the air, both locally and – via satellites – globally. They monitor area and regional compliance with environmental standards. They enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace through their use in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detection and surveillance equipment. They play a major role in medical devices, transportation, entertainment equipment and everyday consumer products.

Size matters

Technological innovations have brought a new generation of sensors, such as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS). These are smaller, smarter and can be integrated into fixed and portable devices.

But whatever the size of the sensor, the device has to be accurate and reliable. Whatever it measures, the measurement has to be extremely precise. A defective sensor can have serious consequences, putting human lives in jeopardy.

IECQ: Safety inside

Sensor manufacturers and suppliers all over the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.

As the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards.

In addition, there are a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ Schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers.

IECQ operates industry specific Certification Schemes:

For more information: www.iecq.org

Gallery
Bosch Sensortec The BME280 sensor combines pressure, humidity and temperature measurement (Photo: Bosch Sensortec)
Car vision sensors ADAS ecosystem for automotive vision applications (Photo: Freescale Semiconductor)
portrait landscape The motion sensor/accelerometer enables the smartphone or tablet screen to automatically switch between landscape and portrait modes