Sensor Sunday: Fingerprint Sensors, Saving Lives and Smart Cities

It’s another Sensor Sunday and there has been new sensors and applications popping up everywhere this week, from city sensors to tiny health sensors to military applications.

Apple’s Touch ID on the new iPads

The big news this week for tech enthusiasts of any degree was the announcement of Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3. On these new devices is Touch ID, a sensor that reads your fingerprint so that your information is kept secure just for you. With companies like Apple and Samsung pushing the fingerprint identification, IHS predicts that the fingerprint sensor market will grow four times by 2020, and with Mastercard now jumping on board, it’s easy to believe. Even though these are very highly developed and specialized sensors, hobbyists are still able to play around with cheaper versions to make neat projects, like a fingerprint scanning garage door opener. And here I thought retina scanners would be the next big thing.

An Infrared Sensor that Saves Hunters’ Lives

Sensor Sunday: An Infrared Sensor for Saving Hunters' Lives

Michael Scott (left) and David Grove invented the Infrared Retroreflector Identification System for hunters. (Photo: Hunter Safety Lab)

A couple of hunters from New Zealand won the Best Award for inventing a hunting safety system to save hunters from accidentally shooting their companions. Michael Scott and David Grove came up with the Infrared Retroreflector Identification System (IRIS), which attaches to a rifle and detects IRIS materials on other hunters and emits an audio-visual alert when a fellow hunter is detected. This is a huge development for hunters, as over 1000 North Americans die every year from hunting accidents, and even more are injured.

(via The New Zealand Herald)

Wearable Sensors offer Constant Health Monitoring

Sensor Sunday : Wearable Health Sensors give Critically Ill Patients Constant Monitoring

Philips’ new sensor attaches to a disposable, adhesive bandage (Photo: Philips)

IRIS isn’t the only life saving sensor technology that made the news this week. Philips announced their new wearable diagnostic device for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The device uses digital biosensors that record biometric data like physical activity, inactivity, respiratory function, heart rhythm and heart rate. This allows people to pick up on changes to their health before it becomes critical.

(via USA Today)

Other medical sensors like the tiny implantable sensors to detect blood and intracranial pressures was announced by Stanford Scientists and at Caltech, students are working on sensors to constantly monitor blood sugars for diabetics. To help people with limb loss (commonly from diabetes and battle injuries) Jason Wheeler from Sandia National Laboratories is developing a three-axis pressure sensor to monitor pressure at different points in a prosthetic limb socket. Using this information, Wheeler hopes to develop a way that the prosthetic can respond and provide better comfort to the wearer.  All these sensors will make life easier for people suffering from chronic conditions, and hopefully extend their life as well.

Sensors in the City

Sensor Sundays: Sensors in the City

This interactive screen featuring data collated from sensors in Jurong Lake District was shown at imbX 2014. (Photo: Channel News Asia)

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore announced that the city will be implementing 1000 sensors across six high congestion areas in the city. The environmental sensors will add to the already existing sensor network to provide a deeper insight into the city’s activities. They hope the new system will quicken response times to emergencies, improve security and help prevent disasters (like flooding). They’ll also be monitoring air quality in different parts of Singapore caused by changing wind conditions, a huge concern for densely populated areas.

(via Channel News Asia)

Speaking of cities, a piece in Gizmodo described how Zurich is using 4500 inductive loop sensors (similar to the sensors that control traffic lights) to monitor traffic congestion and prevent cars from entering busy areas until congestion has eased up. These sorts of technologies can help cities improve infrastructure and make living easier and safer.

Veloloop Helps Cyclists Trigger Traffic Light Sensors

Sensor Sunday: Veloloop Helps Cyclicsts Trigger Traffic Sensors

The Veloloop attaches to the rear of a bike frame to detect and trigger traffic signal sensors (Photo: Veloloop)

Zurich better hope that the Swiss don’t start putting Veloloops on their bikes though! I’m not the only bike commuter who’s complained about a traffic light sensor not responding to my bike. This is because many traffic lights in Canada and the U.S. use inductive loop sensors embedded in the road to detect vehicles waiting at the light. The sensor creates an electromagnetic field on the surface of the road and large metal objects (like cars) create an eddy in the field, which the sensor detects. Unfortunately, bikes don’t always have enough metal to set this off. This is where Veloloop comes in. First, using a magnetic sensor mounted on the rear wheel, the device detects when the bike is standing still. It then searches for an electromagnetic signal over a variety of frequencies, and when it locates the signal, it emits its own signal, causing the traffic light to change.

(via Gizmag)

Hydroponics and Aquaponics Sensor Platforms for Makers

For the open source community, Libelium launched two new sensor platforms that automate control and maintenance tasks in aquariums and gardens. These kits monitor factors such as temperature, pH, moisture and light while actuators control feeding, heating, lights, pumps and irrigation (depending on the platform, of course). While lots of makers like to build systems from scratch, these platforms offer a quick solution for people who still want the ability to play around.

(via Libelium)

That’s all for this week! Come back next Sunday for more updates on what the world is doing with sensors and beyond. Do you have some cool sensor news? Please leave a comment below; maybe we’ll feature your story next week.


Math lover. Engineering communicator. Mad-lib enthusiast. Total nerd.

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Posted in Sensor Sunday
One comment on “Sensor Sunday: Fingerprint Sensors, Saving Lives and Smart Cities
  1. […] in New Scientist covered how Singapore’s citywide sensor network (which we talked about a few weeks ago) tracked a sprung leak and helped prevent lots of damage in the city. There’s lots more going […]

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