Six accelerometer sensor applications that you didn’t know

MEMS accelerometers are powerful tools witch let you measure not only acceleration but much more. If you need to measure acceleration, mechanical vibrations or detect movement this post is for you! Here are some examples what you actually can measure with accelerometer.


Linear acceleration measurement can be useful in the transportation area. Everyone can tell that traveling on a bumpy road makes the car break down faster. Imagine that you have car rental service and want to know how much damage road made to the suspension of your car the car you rented to someone. Mounting accelerometer inside car can solve that problem easily by recording dangerous events. Accelerometer can monition driver behavior too. If the driver starts too fast of hits break pedal too strong acceleometer will notice that. Simple threshold algorithm will check if driver wasn’t too crazy on road.


Nowadays small and power efficient platforms like Raspberry Pi or Beaglebonne let you use USB devices remotelly. It is a great way to use an accelerometer for the remote control enthusiast. If you are one, you can use the accelerometer to measure behavior of a model car, rocket, boat or plane! For example if you are an amateur rocket constructor you can measure its acceleration and then obtain velocity and position. Even the biggest accelerations can be measured with ADXL345 setting its range up to 16g. Acceleration measurement helps monitor rocket and engine behavior. You can find out what causes vibrations or just calculate its speed.


Next possible application of an accelerometer is angle measurement. It is possible because of the ubiquitous gravity filed. In the rest frame on earth, accelerometer constantly measure gravity field acceleration. Sometimes it can be undesirable but in the case of angle measurement is the thing that makes it possible. Sadly it is possible to measure only two (pitch and roll) of three angles of rotation but it is enough in the case of screen orientation for example.


Next interesting application is displacement measurement. It may be not the most accurate method of measurement but it is possible. If you know calculus, you probably know that acceleration is second derivative of position, so if we want to obtaining position (up to constant) from acceleration we have to integrate twice. Numerical integration can be complex topic so let’s do not go into details here.


Wide area of accelerometers applications is mechanical vibration analysis. It is very helpful in diagnostics of different kinds of mechanism. Recording vibrations and analyzing its frequency spectrum can show defects and wear of the mechanism.


Finally if you are runner, boxer or other athlete that want to measure strength of your hit (like those boxing machined do) you can do it with accelerometer. Analyzing such a data is quite simple. You should find just peak value of recorded hit and that is your score! Using frequency analysis you can find steps per minute like the nowadays smart watched do.

That is it! Maybe you have idea for some application? Be sure to left your ideas in the comments section!


USB accelerometer sensor, tilt sensor

Nowadays everyone has accelerometer sensor in its own smartphone. It’s there for several reasons. First of all it’s used for detection of screen orientation relative to the gravity field. This is the sensor which gives your phone information when the screen should be switched from landscape mode to portrait. Beside this there are many other ideas how to use accelerometer.

One of them is pedometer. An app or device which uses accelerometer to track your steps. Application tries to analyse real time data from sensor to find peaks witch corresponding to human steps. Knowing average step length the program is able to calculate traveled distance.

Some guy from Hackday even made mechanical vibrations spectrum analyser using accelerometer and fourier transform decomposition. As you can see usefulness of this type of sensors is bounded only by your imagination 🙂

Such sensor may work as spirit level or angle reader to make something like ball on plate controlling machine just like this one bellow.

I though that it would be nice to have such a sensor in ordinary PC or Rasperry Pi computer for similar purposes so I designed one. My version is small, compact and Plug & Play.  You don’t need any Arduino or embedded coding. It’s just Plug & Play device which communicates with computer by USB port. If you are interested you can purchase it in electromake store.

USB Accelerometer fatures

  • The device uses well known ADXL345 accelerometer
  • USB bus communication
  • USB powered
  • This USB dongle following ADXL345 has user-selectable resolution
  • Fixed 10-bit resolution (from -512 to +511)
  • It is compatible with Linux and Windows OS
  • It is compatible with Raspberry Pi