Ultrasonic sensors are amazing little devices. These sensors detect position, proximity, and fill level with pinpoint precision by using ultrasonic sound waves. They’ve already found their way into a huge array of uses; in fact, we’ve already written about clever applications for them, like their use in automated driver assistance systems and in demanding environments like food production.
But those scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg; and scientists, researchers, and innovators are already beginning to turn to ultrasonic sensors for some truly inventive, forward-looking applications. Here are seven examples.
1: Walking assistance for the blind
Blind people have long used assistance in personal navigation, ranging from walking sticks to seeing-eye dogs. Sensor-based assistive devices can help them navigate with even greater precision by detecting and forewarning of obstacles in the environment.
2: Human fall detection
Each year, millions of people are treated in emergency rooms for falls. Sometimes – particularly among the elderly – these falls are not detected for some time. What if such falls could be immediately and automatically detected? Ultrasonic sensors can be inexpensively incorporated into homes to automatically detect falls, providing a line of defense against a common but sometimes serious mishap.
3: Home and office automation
In fact, ultrasonic sensors are helping to build the smart home and offices of the future. Texas Instruments argues that ultrasonic sensors are more reliable than the passive-infrared sensors previously used to detect motion and the presence of people, which means they can be deployed in smart technology to more effectively automate functions like lighting and HVAC systems.
4: Robotic navigation
Ultrasonic sensors can equip robots with a stronger ability to navigate through their environment with ease, agility, and speed. This becomes important as robots are used in a wider array of industrial applications. In fact, according to the International Federation of Robotics, more than 3 million industrial robots will be in use by the year 2020, effectively doubling since 2014.
5: Predictive maintenance
ARC Advisory Group has found that predictive maintenance of industrial equipment – defined by monitoring equipment data and using analytics to predict failure – is 10 times less costly than reactive maintenance. Ultrasonic sensors can play a key role in this smart application by proactively spotting wear-and-tear in parts or detecting leaks.
6: Smart grids
One application that could underlie a smart utility grids: flow management. Utilities, for example, could use ultrasonic sensors – which are both precise and have no moving parts – to manage the flow of water, gas, and other substances as they build out smart grids.
7: Surface contour mapping
Ultrasonic sensors can do more than just detect the presence of an object; it can even be used to map its surface. This means ultrasonic sensors could potentially be used in 3D scanning to actually identify what – or, someday, even who – an object is. This suggests a wide range of applications, from security to 3D printing of scanned objects.
Technical wordsmith and guest blogger for Hoffmann + Krippner.