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24 Types of Sensors

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A sensor is a device that can represent aspects of the physical world as data in real time. There are thousands of different types of sensors that are used in scientific equipment, electronics, transportation, robotics, security devices and infrastructure such as smart cities. Many sensors have become inexpensive meaning that they increasingly making appearances in everyday items. The following are a few examples of common sensors.


Records video and still images.


Records sound.

Global Positioning System

Measures where you are on the planet at what time using a satellite system.

Tactile Sensors

Senses touch. Includes both devices designed to collect input from humans such as touch screens and machines that collect touch data on their own such as the hand of a robot.


A simple sensor for user input that reports when someone pushes it.


Measures changes in velocity, divided by time. Used to measure things such as user gestures with a mobile device. Can also be used to understand the position of a device as they can detect the direction of gravity. An accelerometer can also detect if a device has been dropped.

Speed Sensor

Detect the speed of objects. Includes the speedometer on vehicles, radar guns to detect the speed of other objects and airspeed indicators.

Chemical Sensor

Often designed to detect a specific chemical such as carbon dioxide sensor. In their most advanced incarnations they may attempt to detect a wide variety of "smells" much like the human nose. Includes safety devices such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.


Measure magnetic fields for purposes such as detecting submarines or to scan underground geology. Also used in mobile devices as compasses.

Proximity Sensor

A type of electromagnetic field sensor for detecting nearby objects.

Ambient Light Sensor

Detects how light or dark it is in order to adjust lighting levels such as a mobile device that automatically adjusts its screen brightness to save power. A type of photodetector.


Measures speed and direction of movement in 3D space.


Measures temperature and how quickly temperature changes.


Measures atmospheric pressure with applications for weather forecasting and estimating altitude. Also used in diving to measure the depth of a dive and to measure the contents of a diver's air tank.


Measures altitude. Often based on a barometer but other methods exist such as a radar altimeter based on radio signals. Important to aircraft and skydiving.

Fingerprint Sensor

A specialized device for reading fingerprints. A variety of technologies exist for this including optical, ultrasonic and capacitance sensors.

Capacitance Sensor

Measures electrical charges or senses things by applying a slight electrical charge on touch.


Measures angle of tilt with respect to gravity.


Checks how fast a disk is spinning such as the parts in an engine or machine.

Flame Detector

Detects actual fire as opposed to smoke.

Motion Detector

Detects movement using a variety of techniques that can include optical, microwave or acoustic sensors.

Occupancy Sensor

Senses that someone is in a room even if they are not moving using infrared, ultrasonic or microwave detection.


A broad class of sensors for detecting elements of biology such as cells or microorganisms. Currently used in research, medicine and food safety.

Air Pollution Sensor

Detects gasses and atmospheric particulate matter such as smoke, smog, dust, spores and pollen.

Molecular Sensor

Tools for molecular recognition.
Overview: Sensors
A device that captures information about the physical world as data in real time.
Also Known As
Digital Sensor
Related Concepts
Smart Cities
Forth Industrial Revolution


This is the complete list of articles we have written about sensors.
Smart Cities
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