The ageing population increases the demand for customized home care. As a result, sensing technologies are finding their way into the home environment. However, challenges associated with how users interact with sensors and data are not well-researched, particularly from a design perspective. This review explores the literature on important research projects around sensors, design and smart healthcare in smart homes, and highlights challenges for design research. A PRISMA protocol-based screening procedure is adopted to identify relevant articles (n = 180) on the subject of sensors, design and smart healthcare. The exploration and analysis of papers are performed using hierarchical charts, force-directed layouts and ‘bedraggled daisy’ Venn diagrams. The results show that much work has been carried out in developing sensors for smart home care. Less attention is focused on addressing challenges posed by sensors in homes, such as data accessibility, privacy, comfort, security and accuracy, and how design research might solve these challenges. This review raises key design research questions, particularly in working with sensors in smart home environments.