Smart sensors are adding value to automation technology

The state of automation is rapidly changing, and one of the main reasons is smart devices. With such capabilities as embedded computing and storage, wired and/or wireless communications, the ability to interact with the outside world or perform autonomous actions, or some degree of descriptive or predictive analytics, smart sensors are adding value to automation technology.

In one example, a smart gas chromatograph has a built-in “software assistant” that guides even less experienced personnel through most installation, operation and maintenance procedures.

Many conventional sensors now also have additional smart features such as pressure sensors that detect electrical loop issues, temperature sensors that can detect thermocouple degradation, and radar level gauges that include self-calibration capabilities. Video cameras can now have onboard video analytics for applications such as intrusion detection. Vibration sensors can perform fast Fourier transform (FFT) of the data to compute equipment health by analyzing the various vibration frequencies right on the sensor. Smart sensors can be attached to the electrical line of industrial electrical motors to compute power factors and the probability of failure for key failure modes—all from analysis performed right on the sensor.

Smart sensors represent a natural technology evolution from simple, equipment-mounted mechanical indicating sensors to “dumb” pneumatic and analog electronic sensors capable of transmitting raw measurements to another device for “massaging” and transforming to today’s microprocessor-enabled smart field devices with onboard processing capabilities and often full, bidirectional digital communications.Read more

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