Autonomous sensors play a very important role in the environmental, structural, and medical fields. The use of this kind of systems can be expanded for several applications, for example in implantable devices inside the human body where it is impossible to use wires. Furthermore, they enable measurements in harsh or hermetic environments, such as under extreme heat, cold, humidity or corrosive conditions. The use of batteries as a power supply for these devices represents one solution, but the size, and sometimes the cost and unwanted maintenance burdens of replacement are important drawbacks. In this paper passive and self-powered autonomous sensors for harsh or hermetical environments without batteries are discussed. Their general architectures are presented. Sensing strategies, communication techniques and power management are analyzed. Then, general building blocks of an autonomous sensor are presented and the design guidelines that such a system must follow are given. Furthermore, this paper reports different proposed applications of autonomous sensors applied in harsh or hermetic environments: two examples of passive autonomous sensors that use telemetric communication are proposed, the first one for humidity measurements and the second for high temperatures. Other examples of self-powered autonomous sensors that use a power harvesting system from electromagnetic fields are proposed for temperature measurements and for airflow speeds.