Here are five great sensors to get you motivated for your next project. Time to get creative!
Looking for a low-cost multiple pixel thermal imager? Look no further than the Panasonic Grid-Eye.
The Panasonic Grid-Eye is a small and relatively low cost infrared sensor array. This sensor behaves like a low resolution IR camera with 64 total pixels. Panasonic lists several applications for this sensor in its datasheet including smart appliances, office automation, and automatic doors. Supporting a temperature range of –20°C to 100°C (low gain version), this sensor could be used for numerous other applications such as gesture recognition or capturing low resolution thermal images. This sensor does have some limitations like a low frame rate and higher cost. Different variants for this part include a low gain version, a high gain version (with a temperature range of 0°C to 80°C), 3v version, and 5v version.
Another similar product is the FLIR Lepton; though it's more expensive than the Panasonic, it does offer 4800 pixels. Three variants, socket, and evaluation board are available.
Want an easy way to measure relative altitude without GPS? Take a look at the BMP280!
The Bosch Sensortec BMP280 sensor is a high precision digital pressure sensor. This sensor is sensitive enough to determine relatively small changes in altitude from changes in air pressure. Potential applications include indoor and outdoor navigation, assistance to GPS receivers, wearable technology, and weather forecasting. This sensor is used in the iPhone 6 to determine relative altitude. Due to the small changes in atmospheric pressure that this sensor uses, small environmental changes such as weather, doors opening, and fans can produce unexpected results.
Adafruit carries several sensors in this family and has an evaluation board here.
Bosh has a whole family of sensors with this capability, including BMP180, BMP280, BMP680. Take a look at Bosh's website for their entire product line.
Ever get frustrated with typical IR distance sensors? The ST VL6180X is here to fix that by using time of flight.
What makes this sensor unique is that instead of measuring the amount of light reflected back, the VL6180X measures the time it takes for light to bounce back. By measuring the time it takes for the light return to the sensor, more consistent results can be obtained across a wide variety of surfaces. This sensor can be used in many applications such as smartphones, tablets, robotics, and in industrial settings. A major limitation of this sensor is its range of 0-10cm. In addition to a distance sensor, this sensor also contains an ambient light sensor.
If a longer range time of flight sensor is needed, take a look at a sensor called the LIDAR LITE manufactured by Pulsed Light.
Worried about how much UV light your project is exposed to? The VEML6070 can help!
This sensor is a self-contained module that communicates the amount of UVA light over an I2C bus. This sensor is ideal for monitoring outdoor weather conditions and in wearable technology. With minimal external components needed and a very efficient sleep mode, this sensor is great for small projects.
Vishay isn’t the only manufacture of sensors like these: Silicon Labs has the Si1145 that packs UV, proximity, and ambient light sensors into a single package.
Ever want to measure how much dust is in the atmosphere? Sharp’s Dust Sensor has got you covered!
The Sharp GP2Y1010AU0F is a self-contained module that uses the reflective properties of dust and smoke to measure their concentration. The sensor works with the help of an infrared LED, phototransistor, and an amplifier circuit. The sensor gives an analog out based on the amount of particles in the air. An important note though: in its datasheet it mentions to not use the sensor as a smoke alarm, most likely due to that being a life critical application. Potential other applications include indoor air quality sensors and air purifier automation.
Just like most sensors, there are several manufacturers of similar sensors such as Amphenol Advanced Sensors with their SM-PWM-01A.
Think we missed an interesting sensor? Let us know in the comments!