Differences Between IoT Sensor And IoT Actuators

The Internet of Things and Linear Actuators

Guest Writer
Guest Writer
PA Engineer

The Internet of Things is something that has been growing in the public eye for the past half-decade or so. It is mostly seen as the next logical step from home automation which has been extremely popular. We are only now beginning to understand the application of the Internet of Things, as the connectivity which it implies has the potential to change almost everything we do. Being connected to our homes is one thing but being connected to somewhere on the other side of the world is something else entirely. This raises questions of what can be done beyond the control of linear actuators and other tools.


What Is the Internet of Things?

The history of the Internet of Things actually stretches back several decades. The only reason it is only reaching the public eye now is because of the limits of our technology at the time. Now that our technology has reached the point where such things are feasible, the Internet of Things is set to be the next big leap. It is believed by researchers that the connections between all of our devices will enable the faster and freer exchange of information around the connections. This will allow us to be more connected and more in contact with each other and our homes at all times. The initial uses of this have been in the realm of home automation.

Automation in the modern world reigns supreme. Initially employed at plants and factories to spare humans physically laborious and repetitive operations, automated devices and cobots have left shop floors and spread across a huge range of activities. Appreciating the convenience and comfort that these tireless silent assistants bring, we invited them into our homes where they set about streamlining our mundane chores and leisure time pursuits. Automated gimmicks inundated our kitchens and bedrooms, dens and garages turning them into high-tech havens where humans can lay back and let technologies pander to all their whims.

The next logical step down the road to total automation of our environment is marrying all the devices to enable their cooperation instead of dealing with a lot of them in isolation. This step was made with the inauguration of IoT – the Internet of Things.


Photo of industrial engineer using the software on a tablet to monitoring robot arm in automotive manufacturing


The IoT and Actuators

Linear actuators are so important to the Internet of Things because they form an integral part of many different pieces of equipment, both in the home and out of it. Security systems are a good example of this. Since linear actuators are used in many systems to extend the use and range of a camera, the Internet of Things can use it in a variety of ways. For example, having the sensors of the system tripped can mean that the Internet of Things is triggered to send information from the security system to a mobile device of some kind. IoT actuators can also be controlled in to use the security system analogy again. Having detected a possible problem, the IoT can take control of the actuators and turn the camera to see what is happening more clearly.

Without actuators, the Internet of things would be unable to make the needed changes on its own, thus would be reduced to simply controlling and interacting with various devices. The Internet of Things is dependent on electric actuators to achieve movement. Actuators are also a good way of expanding the Internet of Things in their own right, as they enable us to make changes remotely, and help communication over greater distances.


How Actuators Could be Controlled Through the IoT

Internet of Things automation can be controlled through an open-source platform such as Raspberry Pi, or Arduino. While Raspberry Pi is more basic than Arduino, it is a small computer that can be used with various peripherals and in\out switches. This will allow for somebody with that form of a computer to be able to use it through the Internet of Things to control any actuators which are connected to it.


Building the Internet of Things with the Arduino open-source platform is of course, slightly different from using Raspberry Pi, mostly due to the size differences. Arduino is an open-source platform that deals with both input and output signals. If it recognizes a specific input that it has been trained to recognize, or which is directly attached to it in some way, it can send a signal elsewhere. The uses for linear actuators are therefore easy to see. One signal received by something in Arduino could be the trigger for some linear actuators to start in particular machinery if they received an outgoing signal themselves. Because of the huge nature of Arduino, and its open-source platform, the possibilities for linear technology in the Internet of Things is almost endless.

How IoT Devices Work

The functioning of IoT systems involves three-layer architecture.

Layer 1

Layer 1 is physical It includes connected sensors that collect data with a further transfer of it. Since potentially these sensors can produce any kind of data, for the industrial IoT application it is important to filter the received information in order to sift out irrelevant messages and highlight urgent ones. For instance, threat detection, abrupt shutdowns and so forth. If the IoT data collection necessitates subsequent deep analysis it should not be stored on the company’s computers but relegated to the cloud.

Layer 2

Layer 2 is essentially an IoT sensor network supplied with DAS (data acquisition system). The latter is used to convert signals obtained from data sensors, usually analog waveforms, into digital values that are processed by a computer. Then the internet gateway directs the digitalized data to Layer 3 over Wi-Fi or wired local area network. Another compulsory prerequisite of data transmission is middleware. It is software that connects the database and applications and ensures the cohesion and management of all IoT components.

Layer 3

Layer 3 is where the reaction to the data takes place. The devices responsible for it receive an order to start functioning in accordance with the pre-set algorithms.


IoT Sensors

These sensors are modules that detect environmental changes to information about the other elements of the system they are linked to. The signals about the condition of the surrounding world are converted into digital code. An IoT sensor is thus a subtype of a transducer, a device that transforms one energy kind into another. The difference between sensors and transducers is that the latter is a more general term subsuming all appliances enabling energy conversion while the former converts only physical phenomena into electric signals.


Today, the variety of sensors is astounding. Passive sensors for example does not require any external power source to function, whereas active ones do. According to the method of detection implemented in them, sensors are divided into mechanical, thermal, electric, and chemical types. All of these are based on sensors, which means that they can only measure some value but not analyse the received input as they are not equipped with processors. IoT sensor technology makes use of two completely different kinds of devices.

    1. Smart sensors are equipped with digital motion processors (DMPs) that can analyse the obtained data before transmitting it via the communication module to the network layer. Such sensors may also contain compensation filters, amplifiers, and other components facilitating their operation.
    2. Drone quadcopter DJI Phantom 4 with high-resolution digital camera and front obstacle sensors


    3. Intelligent sensors are upgraded smart sensors that on top of what the latter can do are capable of self-validation and identification as well as adaptation and testing. Moreover, they may even function as an IoT controller handling responses which makes them effectively specialized hardware.

    However important sensors for IoT might be it is Layer 3 devices that ultimately determine task implementation.


    A Sample of Operation of the IoT

    The following example examines IoT actuators in agriculture.

    Smart robotic in agriculture spraying fertilizer


    Internet of things sensors gathers information on the amount of moisture in the soil to determine how intensive the watering of crops should be. This data is supplemented by the weather forecast obtained from the internet that informs whether any rain is expected in a given location any time soon. Responding to this input data the irrigation system turns on automatically. if a dry spell is anticipated and discharges the exact measure of water that the crops require.

    As you can see the adequate operation of the entire system largely depends on sensors for the Internet of Things.


    The Internet of Things is growing so fast that numerous possibilities are coming to light as to what we could do with it. Though most people know about it from home automation, there is a lot more to the Internet of Things. IoT sensors and actuators ensure accurate data assemblage and exact reaction stipulated by the prior programming thus paving the way to streamlining numerous aspects of our life. This article went into some detail about how specifically linear actuators would be affected by the Internet of Things, and how they could be controlled and used by us.

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