We aren’t able to predict this in advance, of course, so
a weight sensor placed at the bottom of the container
won’t provide a meaningful indication of its volume.
What about a downward-facing ultrasonic distance
sensor placed in the lid? Ultrasonic sensors serve many
industrial requirements, but the power and cost of a
properly sealed ruggedized sensor presented a challenge.
They also have a “dead zone”—a minimum detection
distance. This means if the material in the bin managed
to accumulate above a certain height (too close to the
sensor), it would no longer be detectable.
After considering many approaches, we settled on a
newly-introduced ToF sensor from ST Microelectronics
(Figure 1) placed in the lid. It has no dead zone (it detects
objects as close as 0 mm away), operates with incredibly
low current levels (< 1 microampere in sleep mode), and
comes in a 3 mm x 5 mm surface-mountable component.
Sealing the sensor from the contaminants in the bin only
required placing it behind a small flat infrared window.
Lastly, because the device is optimized for smartphones,
cost was well below our target.
To summarize, ToF is a versatile and precise distance
measuring option for many Io T-enabled applications.
New generations of sensors extend a product’s
functionality, enhance reliability, and provide a
competitive edge. Increasingly, we find sensors originally
intended for one specific market are finding homes in
new, unanticipated applications. ECN
Figure 1: ST Microelectronics VL53L0X integrated ToF sensor
PCIM Europe Hall 7 Booth 229 © e i P
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