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A Passive Infrared sensor (PIR sensor) is an electronic device that measures infrared (IR) light radiating from objects in its field of view. PIR sensors are often used in the construction of PIR-based motion detectors (see below). Apparent motion is detected when an infrared source with one temperature, such as a human, passes in front of an infrared source with another temperature, such as a wall. This is not to say that the sensor detects the heat from the object passing in front of it but that the object breaks the field which the sensor has determined as the "normal" state. Any object, even one exactly the same temperature as the surrounding objects will cause the PIR to activate if it moves in the field of the sensors.[1]

All objects above absolute zero emit energy in the form of radiation. Usually infrared radiation is invisible to the human eye but can be detected by electronic devices designed for such a purpose. The term passive in this instance means that the PIR device does not emit an infrared beam but merely passively accepts incoming infrared radiation. “Infra” meaning below our ability to detect it visually, and “Red” because this color represents the lowest energy level that our eyes can sense before it becomes invisible. Thus, infrared means below the energy level of the color red, and applies to many sources of invisible energy.[2]