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Smart Sensors

New standard could save lives and money

7 min read
Image: Nicholas Eveleigh; Photo Manipulation: Laura Hoffman
Image: Nicholas Eveleigh; Photo Manipulation: Laura Hoffman

Chances are, your health and happiness rely on sensors, those ubiquitous little devices that tell us if a fridge is too cold, a nuclear reactor’s safety systems are operating, or a factory production line is processing components correctly. But sensors have a dirty little secret: it’s all too easy for them be in perfect working order, reporting all is well when, in fact, your milk is turning into a frozen block, the reactor’s safety system is impotent, and that factory has filled a warehouse with useless—and possibly dangerous—products.

Fortunately, help is on the way with a new standard for analog sensors, the most common kind in use today. The dirty little secret of sensors is calibration, the process by which data from a sensor are mapped to real-world conditions, and the new standard should help make miscalibration a thing of the past. Miscalibrated sensors can cause problems ranging in severity from a wasted morning’s research to what happened at the Bruce B nuclear generating station near Toronto in 2002. There it was discovered that a backup reactor shutdown system that had been operating for weeks, in what appeared to be working order, was actually incapable of catching a dangerous rise in radiation, owing to an incorrectly calibrated neutron detector.

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Remembering LED Pioneer Nick Holonyak

He received the 2003 IEEE Medal of Honor

3 min read
close-up portrait of man wearing glasses and suspenders holding something between his fingers

Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr., inventor of the light-emitting diode, holds a part of a stoplight that utilizes brighter, current version LED's designed by students of his.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Getty Images

close-up portrait of man wearing glasses and suspenders holding something between his fingersNick Holonyak, Jr. holds a part of a stoplight that utilizes a newer LED designed by his students. Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Getty Images

Nick Holonyak Jr., a prolific inventor and longtime professor of electrical engineering and computing, died on 17 September at the age of 93. In 1962, while working as a consulting scientist at General Electric’s Advanced Semiconductor Laboratory, he invented the first practical visible-spectrum LED. It is now used in light bulbs and lasers.

Holonyak left GE in 1963 to become a professor of electrical and computer engineering and researcher at his alma mater, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He retired from the university in 2013.

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Video Friday: StickBot

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

2 min read
An image of a robot made of a small sticks tied together with a tangle of colorful wires, batteries, actuators, and electronics

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

IROS 2022: 23–27 October 2022, KYOTO, JAPAN
ANA Avatar XPRIZE Finals: 4–5 November 2022, LOS ANGELES
CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Enjoy today’s videos!

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