At the edge of your network the IoT drive monitor and control. Sensors monitor the environment, while acuators control the environment. In this article we’ll discuss the details of senors and acuators.
Sensors are electronic components that detect something about the physical envornment: typically location, motion, light, temperature, mosture, flow, chemical, gas, pressure, etc.
There are various grades to the sensors that start at hobby grade then move to consumer, commercial, and industrial grades. The difference in these classifications are: length of life, durability, capabilities, accuracy, and price. Hobby grade can run you under $1 a sensor from china, while most industrial sensors run $100’s or even $1000’s.
Typically, you rapidly prototype with the hobby grade sensor and then upgrade as necessary to meet the production needs of your solution.
A good practice is to perform prototyping with a single production grade sensor of each type to define the signal signature (how the data comes off the sensor) and develop a software based sensor simulator allowing you to scale to thousands of virtual sensors without the operational cost of purchasing them.
IoT is not only about reading data from the environment, but also interacting with it.
Actuators are mechanisms that turn energy into action. They are used to apply force to something. Typical Actuators are relays, switches, valves, servos, and motors.
Robotics is a great example of actuators at work. Robotic actuators activate on lights, move arms, turn wheels, etc.c.
Most sensors will run on 3.3v or 5v so picking the appropriate edge device is important to ensure that your sensors are supported. Likewise, you want to make sure that your edge device has the appropriate analog and digital input pins (GPIO) to support the number of sensors you have.