Sun. Jan 22nd, 2023

The role of hardware in collecting data

At a basic level, hardware can be used for data collection simply through the provision of a keyboard on which to enter data.

If we abstract this, it is the process of data ‘entry’ via a piece of hardware.

In addition to a standard data entry scenario (above, typing in data), the following are other common methods of data collection:

Optical methods

Cameras can be used to identify items, objects or people; this data can be stored automatically.

Barcodes, QR codes and OMR data are also read in using a form of camera.

In all cases, the hardware (CCD sensor or CMOS sensor) record the intensity and colour of light across many pixels, sending a stream of digital data to the system where it can be processed further.


Modern phones and wearables contain accelerometers which sense the device’s movement and use this as data. This information can be used to collect information about a person’s activity, movements (game controls), or predict an impending collision.


There is a huge variety of wearable technology; some of this hardware can detect the wearer’s heart rate, perform ECG traces, record blood pressure and much more.

Other uses

Thermometers can record temperature information; hydrometers can record moisture levels. Dedicated devices can record blood-levels, for example in diabetics.

Role of hardware

In almost all cases, data can be collected automatically so long as an appropriate hardware device (sensor) exists for the measurement that is desired. This may obviously involve having to create a new sensor if the type of data has never been collected electronically before.