Smart sensors are the connected eyes and ears of your smart home ecosystem, allowing a level of automation beyond simply scheduling and triggering device activation.
With the best smart sensors and detection modules able to pick up anything from light and motion to sound and changes in air quality, the possibilities of building a level of intelligent detection capability into a home automation setup are now greater than ever.
In this guide we’ve taken a look at the very best smart sensors for assembling a series of devices around your home designed to react to even the most subtle changes in your living environment and to activate processes or devices automatically so you don’t have to.
Smart Sensor Basics
Sensors are an integral part of a whole lot of smart devices and represent one of the core components of all ‘sense and react’ systems.
Alongside actuators (which translate information into a physical action or movement on a device or machine), sensors are the components responsible for detecting, measuring, and monitoring things which take place externally or outside of the device.
The kinds of information that sensors can detect vary widely and can be anything from changes in daylight to listening out for sounds, monitoring atmospheric conditions like temperature and rainfall, and detecting dangerous levels of smoke or carbon monoxide in the air.
When a sensor detects changes at a predesignated level, the information is then used to trigger an action elsewhere and this can take the form of a physical action (using the actuators mentioned earlier) or a digital one, for example sending an email, text message, or triggering a third-party service such as IFTTT for automation further down the line.
If the smart lights in your hallway are set to activate whenever a motion sensor detects movement for example, then this is a good example of a sensor and actuator in action.
Similarly, if an outdoor camera system detects unexpected movement on the porch when you’re at work and sends you an alert to your phone, this is an example of a digital response.
The Best Smart Sensors for Home Automation
Whether you’re looking to automate the lights in your home to turn on when you wake up at night or simply want a intelligent way to detect water leaks or changes in air quality, the best smart sensors are the connected devices in your smart home web that monitor their surroundings to make it happen when a change is detected.
Smart sensors can be broken down by the kind of environmental changes they detect or monitor with motion sensors keeping an eye out for any movement and light sensors monitoring, you guessed it, changes in ambient light levels before trigger
Smart Motion Sensors
Designed to pick up movement before triggering a connected device (or devices), the best smart motion sensors can be used in a variety of applications with some built for outdoor use and others for indoors.
Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor
Samsung’s SmartThings range of smart home devices has developed a well-established reputation as one of the leading connected platforms for home automation and connected devices so it’s little surprise that the brand’s motion sensor is widely considered one of the best in the business.
One of the things that makes the SmartThings Motion Sensor such a good option is the wide ranging compatibility offered by the device.
With the ability to work with Google, Alexa, and of course, other Samsung SmartThings devices, this smart motion sensor is compatible with both the Z-Wave and ZigBee communication protocols.
In terms of functionality, the SmartThings sensor offers the usual range of motion detection features which allow for home automation triggers based on movement detection meaning connected devices (like lighting) can be activated or deactivated when someone enters or leaves the device’s line of sight.
A range of detection of up to 15 feet with a 120 degree field of view makes the SmartThings Motion Sensor a good option for siting in multiple indoor locations and the ability to receive 24/7 notifications if unexpected movement is detected makes this a great option as part of a smart home security solution.Learn More About the Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor Here
Dome Motion Detector
The Dome Motion Detector is Z-Wave Plus certified and works out of the box with Z-Wave smart hubs for easy integration with hubs from the likes of SmartThings, Nexia, Home Seer, and Wink.
As well as simply detecting motion, the device is able to measure current light levels, allowing it to help coordinate smart lighting throughout your home and to integrate light-specific scenes based on the amount of ambient light detected by the device.
Movement detection from the Dome motion sensor is based upon a 110 degree field of view which can be configured to send alerts to a connected smart home alarm system if unexpected activity is detected.
The Dome Motion Detector is battery operated (with an estimated 3-year battery life) and the inclusion of a magnetic mounting system makes this smart motion sensor both highly flexible and easy to setup wherever you decide to install in your home.Learn More About the Dome Motion Detector Here
Philips Hue Motion Sensor
The Philips Hue Smart Motion Sensor is the out of the box solution if you’re looking to tie a motion sensor up to an existing Hue lighting setup in your home.
With the Hue Motion Sensor, you can sync compatible lights to activate upon entry and turn off when you leave the room while also detecting the optimum light levels throughout the day in order to maximize efficiency and reduce consumption.
Direct compatibility with Philips Hue lighting solutions allows for some pretty neat coordinated actions from the moment you’re set up such as the inclusion of the sensor’s smart night light settings which enable a time-appropriate light level for nocturnal navigation if you need to get out bed during the night.
In terms of installation, the Philips Hue Motion Sensor can be wall-mounted using the included screws or simply placed freestanding on a spare shelf or surface if this is more appropriate where you need to use it. Combine this with a wireless and battery powered device and you end up with a highly-flexible smart sensor solution if you’re working with other Hue devices.
As with other devices in the Hue range, the Motion Sensor requires the Hue bridge in order to connect to other units in your system and when paired with the bridge the sensor can also then be used to control any HomeKit compatible devices in your home.Learn More About the Philips Hue Motion Sensor Here
Eve Motion Smart Wireless Motion Sensor
If you’re looking to implement a smart motion detector system built around the Apple HomeKit platform, then Eve’s motion sensor devices are one of the best options on the market for getting the job done.
As with other smart motion sensors, the main offering of the Eve Motion is the ability to activate lights and other connected smart devices from the moment movement is detected.
Offering the option to operate both indoors and outside, the Eve Motion sensor utilizes a 120-degree field of view with a 9 meter range for optimal visuals while a wireless design allows for maximum flexibility when it comes to placement and installation.
Scenes can be quickly set up using Apple interfaces (like Siri or on an Apple Watch) as well as using the Home app on a compatible device such as an iPhone or iPad. On top of this, the app interface provides detailed oversight into usage records so you can gain a clear picture of your smart sensor metrics.
When it comes to scenes, the flexibility of creation in the Eve Motion system provides a lot of options when it comes to increasing the level of automation in your home, for example creating a ‘Home’ scene which turns on your lighting and music when you step into the house so you don’t need to lift a finger or having all of your devices in a room turn off if the sensor doesn’t pick up any movement for a set period of time.
Eve Motion’s scenes can also be configured around specific use-cases such as pets and kids, with variable sensitivity allowing you to dial the motion detection up or down when needed. Similarly, if no-one is home and the sensors pick up movement, Eve Motion will send you a notification to let you know about it..Learn More About the Eve Motion Smart Wireless Motion Sensor Here
ONVIS Smart Motion Sensor
Like the Eve Motion mentioned earlier, the ONVIS Smart Motion Sensor is designed for use with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform.
While the ONVIS provides the same entry level functionality as the device from Eve and other non-HomeKit specific sensors, this motion detector also includes a couple of other tricks up its sleeve which significantly increase the capability of this smart sensor.
As well as automating the activation of connected and compatible smart devices in your home, the ONVIS provides real-time notifications to any paired iOS device and stores the 100 most recent detection records for reference.
Beyond the usual features you’d expect from a smart motion sensor, the ONVIS also includes a smart hygrometer thermometer and humidity sensor allowing you to monitor not only movement, but also the environmental conditions in your home. Temperature and humidity updates are kept in the system for 31 days, are updated every 5 minutes and can easily be accessed by asking Siri or checking the companion ONVIS Home app.
The ONVIS Smart Motion Sensor utilizes passive infrared (PIR) to detect any movement in its field of view and communicates with controllers through a Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connection.
In terms of power, the ONVIS uses 2 AAA batteries which provide up to 15000 hours of use before they need replacing while the ONVIS Home app provides a real-time status update of remaining battery power.Learn More About the ONVIS Smart Motion Sensor Here
Ecolink Z-wave Plus Motion Detector
As the name suggests, Ecolink’s Z-wave Plus Motion Detector utilizes the Z-wave protocol for its wireless connectivity and therefore offers native compatibility with SmartThings devices as well as a number of other Z-wave smart home hubs such as those from the likes of Vera and HomeSeer.
The Ecolink Z-wave Plus is designed for ease of setup and use without some of the annoyances that can result from motion detection sensors for pet owners thanks to its ‘Pet Immunity’ feature which allows the system to ignore any movement from pets up to 55 lbs.
Installation of the Ecolink is simple thanks to an included set of flush and corner mount brackets which allow maximum setup flexibility while a discrete design ensures discrete placement in your home.Learn More About the Ecolink Z-wave Plus Motion Detector Here