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Types of Motion Sensors Explained [Uses + How They work]

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A motion sensor also called a motion detector is a sophisticated device that is specially designed to detect a physical object or people within a certain range which it is meant to cover.

Motion detectors are usually integrated as a component of a system that performs a specified task or action.

On a security gadget, it is meant to alert it user of motion within an area, while on a lighting system, wireless motion detectors are meant to light up a dark area when and if any form of motion is detected.

Passive Infrared Light Sensor

Types of Motion Sensor

There are various types of motion sensors available today depending on your need and budget. The types of motions sensor are:

  • Passive Infrared Motion Sensor
  • Microwave Motion Sensors
  • Dual Technology or Hybrid Motion sensors
  • Ultrasonic Motion Sensors

Passive Infrared Motion Sensor

PIR is a component that is mostly used in home security systems which are meant to scan and detect body heat(Infrared Energy).

Motion sensor

Depending on its purpose, when a system is armed with this type of sensor, it is meant to either light up an area, ring a bell, sound an alarm or in some cases the device can send a notification to the owner when it detects a source of infrared energy around it which in most cases comes from humans.

You might find infrared sensors in gun safes or within cabinets to light up darker areas.


The motion sensor system based on microwave technology works by sending and receiving reflections of microwave pulses. it works like radar as it continuously sends microwave radiation around and observing if there will be deflections or reflection of those waves it is emitting.

Over the years of experiment and continuous usage, the experts have faulted the use of this type of motion sensors citing its unreliability and the fact that it can be tampered with using electrical interference and its high cost.

Dual Technology or Hybrid Motion Sensors

As the name implies, this is a type of motion sensor that makes use of the combination of microwave and infrared technology.

The hybrid design was aimed at combating false alarm which is prevalent in systems that make use only the PIR or Microwave technology.

The Hybrid type is designed in a way that both infrared and microwave sensors have to be triggered before the system which the sensor is integrated into will be activated.

While the dual technology sounds like a good idea, critics have raised a vulnerability concern stating that it reduces detection probability since two systems must synchronize before activation can take place.

Ultrasonic Motion Sensors

This system works with a sound wave that has a frequency that is higher than the audible limit of human hearing.

The ultrasonic sound used here is not distinctively different from the normally audible sound, but it just that humans can’t hear it because of its frequency.

It works by sending and receiving sound reflections from a nearby object. the trigger system is activated when it takes a shorter time for a sound to reflect. This is to say that as objects move closers, the time taken to reflect to get a reflection decreases this will signal to the sensor that an object has moved closer than it was thus activating the system which it is connected to.

Areas of Usage & Why are Motion Sensors Used

  1. For energy efficiency
  2. Automatic lighting control
  3. Home Automation and Smart systems
  4. As intruder Alarm systems trigger switch
  5. Smartphones
  6. Automatic Door Opener

Energy Efficiency

Motion Sensors installed on smart light and other home devices make the sensor equipped devices to power on only when they are needed.

The system in this way conserves energy for when it is needed and save the cost of electricity in the process.

Meanwhile, battery-powered lighting units like the motion sensor stair and under-cabinet light only power ON when someone comes within a certain distance to it. This alone gives the device very long battery life.

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Automatic Lighting Control

Solar lights that are installed in locations where they are not easily accessible for a regular OFF/ON routine can have motion sensors installed on them so that it only powers on when it detects movement.

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Another alternative used in automatic lighting control is to use a photocell sensor that powers OFF/ON depending on the amount of light it detects

Motion sensor that controls light- motion sensor types and how they work
Motion Detector for Controlling Lighting

Home Automation & Smart Systems

Motion sensors are used in many high-end home smart system, They can be integrated into home devices and serve as an added protection in some cases.

The smart lighting system has the ability to light up when motion is detected, and can also send notification alert into a users mobile phone about movement in such places.

This Samsung SmartThings Motion Sensor device that works with the SmarThings App or Alexa is an example of a smart motion sensor that sends 24/7 alerts on your smartphone anytime there’s unexpected movement in your home.

Samsung SmartThings GP-U999SJVLBAA Magnetic Motion...
  • 24/7 Monitoring: Receive alerts when there’s unexpected movement in your home
  • Home Automation: Set devices to automatically turn on or off as people come and go to minimize...
  • Detection Ready: Adjust the sensor with the quick tilt magnetic ball mount to capture motion up to...

It turns things off for you by setting devices to automatically turn on or off as you come and go.

Intruder Alarm Systems Trigger Switch

Motion Sensors are built into security alert systems that are designed to help monitor highly sensitive asset and property.

The Guardline Wireless Driveaway Alarm uses motion sensors in it trigger switch

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Motion sensors were the technology used in Nintendo’s popular Wi video game console that lets you bowl strikes and hit tennis volleys like you’re Venus Williams.

Smart sensors made their way into the mobile phone technology in the form of accelerometers.

Part of the idea was to work as a motion sensing mouse that allows you to browse the internet on mobile by tilting the device left, right, up or down.

On some phones, it can serve as your fitness monitor by counting the numbers of your paces as you exercise.

Automatic Door Opener

Some doors use motion detecting sensors to trigger the mechanisms which control those automatic doors at the banks and malls use that opens and closes itself when you come within a certain distance to it.

Usually, the motion sensors installed on those doors continuously scan around to detect any source of infrared energy from the human body. Other technologies used on automatic doors are Radar Sensors and Laser Sensors.

Other Advantages of Motion Sensors

  • They offer cheap and effective ways of securing your home and save you a lot of money on security personnel or even all the hyper-expensive home surveillance equipment in the market.
  • It gives you the convenience of not having to group around the room in the dark in search of a wall switch or lamp to light up the room
  • After leaving your home, you don’t have to worry about the possibility of having left your lights ON.
  • A motion sensor light will easily scare away intruders who would have entered and exited your property un-noticed
  • Using a motion sensor door help the kids and the elderly when moving around, In this way reducing the possibility of home accidents.