Updated: July 4th, 2018

Manufacturers are increasingly adopting IoT and Industry 4.0 to reach operational excellence in the factory, and to convert existing offerings to smart products that offer exciting new value.

Whatever the IoT use case may be – from predictive maintenance to new product innovation – a broad set of IoT components is often required.

The world of IoT components is vast and covers a variety of hardware and software components of varying attributes and function. In this guide, we have categorized for you the major IoT components commonly used to create connected systems and products.

 


Industrial sensors

Used to monitor system health and quality

  • Vibration sensors measure linear velocity, displacement and proximity. Vibration is a leading indicator for asset malfunction, and is therefore a critical IoT component in condition monitoring solutions.
  • Temperature sensors measure temperature through an electrical signal, typically using a thermocouple device.
  • Pressure sensors are widely used in industrial fields to measure the pressure of gases and liquids against a diaphragm, transmitting the measured value as an electric signal.
  • Humidity sensors are common to HVAC systems, and measure both the moisture and air temperature in a given space.
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a device that uses radio waves to identify objects near its antenna. The RFID uses tags that consist of a microchip and a coil that are responsive to the radio waves sent by the device. RFID works in a variety of ranges and sizes, depending on the protocol and frequency used.
  • Camera: In the IoT, cameras are used in products are diverse in quality and price, and are used for various purposes, from simple low-resolution cameras to HD cameras with image processing capabilities.

Motion sensors

  • Accelerometer: Is a component that measures the change in motion of an object, and is able to analyze the direction of movement, tilt, and acceleration of the device it is placed on. Usually, an accelerometer operates on three axes, each measured separately, and an external algorithm transforms the raw data into the type of motion that needs to be measured. Accelerometers have a wide sensitivity range, from a few G-forces to a maximum of hundreds of G forces.
  • Gyroscope: This is a device that measures angular velocity or the spin rate of the object it is placed on. Gyroscopes are used in IoT products that require movement analysis such as sports equipment and typically combine with an accelerometer. Data is processed via an algorithm using a method called sensor fusion, that combines both sensor outputs in the analysis process.
  • Tilt sensor: A component that senses a slope in one or more directions of movement. The tilt sensor transmits an electrical signal that originates from an angular movement.  A simple tilt sensor is comprised of a small ball that makes or breaks contact between two wires to transmit the signal.
  • Piezoelectric sensor: Is a component that senses changes in pressure applied to it. Piezoelectric sensors are usually used for dynamic pressure, such as impact or movement of a body on the sensor. The pressure applied is transformed into electric current, and it senses even tiny changes in pressure, that make the sensor highly sensitive.
  • Distance sensor: Is a component that senses objects in its line of sight, and is able to determine the distance from a few millimeters to a few meters. Distance sensors that are commonly used in the IoT world are ultrasonic and work by sending and receiving sound and infrared waves.
  • Altimeter: Is a sensor used to measure changes in altitude. Altimeters in the IoT world mostly use barometric pressure sensors in order to measure altitude. The pressure of the air around the sensor is measured and converted into a reading of the altitude with an accuracy of up to a few centimeters.
  • GPS tracker: A device that detects the global location of the product it is placed on. The GPS, or Global Positioning System tracker, uses a signal received from satellites and processes them into a position and altitude on the grid of the globe. Products that use GPS are mobile, such as transportation units and sports devices.

 

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Industrial Automation Components

Used for production control

  • A programmable logic controller (PLC) is a ruggedized computer device used to control machines and processes. Unlike a personal computer though, the PLC is designed to operate in rough industrial conditions and to be flexible in how it interfaces with external inputs and outputs received from and sent to other devices.
  • A Data Historian is a software program that captures production data into a time-series data base, and enables rapid retrieval of this data. Data historians typically record asset status, performance, quality, and costs.

Infrastructure components

  • Micro-controller: The processor of the electronic kit. This component manages communication and transmits the commands in the circuit.
  • Memory: The device that stores information applied by the micro-controller to operate the system and can contain information used by different components in the system. In some cases, the memory forms part of the micro-controller chip; and in cases where more memory is required, it can form a separate component.
  • Communication device: The component that manages the connection to a network –making the product ‘smart’. The communication could take the form of one of a few protocols. for example, through a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. The communication module could form part of the microcontroller, or it could be a separate module in the system.

Power supply components

  • Battery: Batteries are the most common power solution for mobile products that require less power. Batteries can be rechargeable, such as power banks, or they can be replaceable batteries.
  • Electricity network: Usually a viable option if the product is stationary and requires higher voltage and current. This is typically the case when applied to heat elements, heavy motors or other mechanical components and products that are in constant operation mode.

Consumer Product Contact Components

  • Button: This basic input component simply sends a command by pressing a physical knob. Buttons can vary from small plastic elements to high-grade steel versions. Buttons can be self-locking – meaning they remain in the current position or self-releasing – where they only send a command while pressed.
  • Switch: A component that connects or brakes the line, changing the state of the device, the most common example is an on/off switch. A switch can consist of two or more positions.
  • Touch sensor: A component that senses touch and transmits a signal or a sequence of signals. There are two types of sensors: A resistive touch sensor that senses local pressure on the surface, and a capacitive touch sensor that senses electric conductivity of the body, sensing touch without physical contact. These sensors can even operate through thin materials such as glass or plastics. Touch screens work with either resistive or capacitive layers to sense contact on the screen.
  • Reed switch and hall-effect sensors –  These are two components that sense a magnetic field and send a command to the circuit. Reed switch and hall-effect are magnetic proximity sensors and the operating distance depends on the sensor itself and the strength of the magnet used. The difference is that a reed switch makes a physical connection when exposed to a magnetic field and hall-effect changes the electrical output when a magnetic field is present.
  • Fingerprint detector – This sensor recognizes fingerprints placed on a surface. Fingerprint detectors use either optical scanning or a capacitive sensor in order to recognize the patterns on fingers. Today it is more common to use a capacitive sensor (see definition above) which is smaller and simpler to use.
  • Force Sensing Resistor (FSR) sensor: Force Sensing Resistor is a component that transforms the force applied on the surface into electronic resistance. FSR is used for detecting and measuring force on the surface area of a product.
  • Flexibility sensor: Similar to the FSR sensor, flexibility sensors detect electrical resistance changes that occur when a strip is bent, so the sensor measures the degree to which the surface on which it is placed bends.

Sound Components

  • Sound modules: A set of components that enable sounds to be stored and played. Sound modules can be in the form of a microcontroller on the main PCB, or as a stand-alone PCB. Sound modules have a wide range of prices, quality of sounds, memory sizes, and types of files supported.
  • Speaker: This is the component that transforms the data sent from the sound module into actual sound. The speaker consists of a membrane that vibrates in different frequencies; this causes the air to vibrate, which creates sounds. Speakers have varying sizes and amplifying forces and should be matched to the sound module they are connected to.
  • Microphone: A device that receives and processes sounds electronically. Microphones work in the opposite way to a speaker – transforming sound waves into electric signals.
  • Buzzer: This is a component that makes a constant signaling sound. The buzzer works by the motion of a membrane caused by either mechanical, electromagnetic or other forces. The buzzer is used for signaling a certain state in the product’s behavior, for example, when the liquid level in a tank is too low or too high.

Lighting

  • Light sensor: A sensor that is able to detect light levels. The light sensor uses a photocell – a device that transforms light energy into electric energy so the component conveys readings of the amount of light projected on it.
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED): Is an efficient illuminating device that transforms electric energy into light. LEDs have replaced light bulbs as illuminating components in most electronic devices.

 Displays

  • Screens: Are devices that display visual information, used in the IoT world to communicate behaviors and functions of the product. By adding a touch sensor on top of the screen, they function as the command devices of the product and are most commonly found in smartphones. There is a variety of sizes and qualities of screens, from small, one-color displays, to massive 3D HD screens.
  • Dot matrix: Is a set of LEDs placed together to create a network of signaling lights used for display purposes. A dot matrix can be composed of a few single color LEDs and display simple signs and could be composed of hundreds of multi-color LEDs and act as a complex screen.

Mechanical components

  • Motor: A mechanical device that transforms electric current into a circular motion. Motors are used for any motion required in a product, such as spinning wheels or closing a doll’s mouth. Motors come in many sizes and strengths depending on the device requirements.
  • Vibration motor: A device that generates fast repetitive circular motions that are mostly used for signaling the motion by feeling, when in contact with the product. Vibration motors in the IoT are usually small, such as those found inside phones, toys, or other mobile products that are touched by the user.
  • Potentiometer: Is a device that detects the position of a sliding or rotating knob. Potentiometers apply electric resistance in order to transmit a signal that matches the position of the knob. Potentiometers are used in products that use measurements or commands representing gradual changes of certain values
  • Weight sensor: Is a sensor that measures weight and consists of one or more load cells and an amplifier. The sensitivity and maximum load can vary from a few milligrams to dozens of kilograms.

This guide lists just some of the many IoT components used to deliver IoT and Industry 4.0 systems. To get a digital prototype of your IoT system, with all required IoT components, visit and learn about the Seebo IoT Simulator.