In the last post, we saw how sensors play a very important role in the Internet of Things ecosystem. Sensors are used for collecting data. The next logical question that arises is “What can be done with this data?”
Data can be processed, analyzed, reported or can be used to trigger another event. In this article, we would be more interested in the scenario of an action or data pattern that triggers another event.
Consider a situation where you would like your water pump to be switched on when the water level in the tank goes below a certain level. How would you design this system? You would have a sensor to measure the level of water. You will configure this system in such a way that once the sensor learns that the water has gone down a particular level, it will send an alert to the controller (this would be an embedded system assembly). The controller in turn would trigger an actuator to switch on the water pump.
What is the role of an actuator here? It simply triggers a mechanical action when it is supplied with energy (through the form of electricity, air or water). As an analogy, you could consider the turbines being set in rotatory motion when water flows over it at high speeds.
An actuator is a device that converts energy into motion. It is usually used to apply a force on some thing. In our example, the actuator would apply force to switch on the motor of the water pump. Actuators can create linear, oscillatory or rotatory motion based on how they are designed.
In the scheme of Internet of Things, actuators are used whenever there is a need to switch on/off another device or equipment by applying a force. You should remember that IOT is not just about reading and processing of data, but triggering various devices into operation based on the dynamics of the data. Most of the automation in IOT happens through the combined use of sensors and actuators. Thus, they form the back bone of IOT.
There is no limit on what can be achieved through IOT. This technology is there to improve the quality of our lives. I encourage you to think of real life scenarios where the combination of sensors and actuators be used to solve a problem that we face frequently. After all, technology should be used for problem solving, isn’t it?