The Accelerometer in Everyday Applications

An accelerometer is a highly technical piece of equipment that is used to measure rotational, linear, gravitational or centrifugal forces of acceleration and deceleration. They have many applications across a wide range of industries, including biology, medicine, industry, engineering, transport and volcanology.

They are also at work in our every day lives – particularly in the field of consumer electronics – although we probably don’t even know it.

Tablets and Smartphones
When you turn your tablet or smartphone from portrait to landscape, or vice versa, and the picture on the screen automatically turns with it, that amazing adjustment which we all take for granted is actually being performed by an accelerometer.

More advanced applications utilize accelerators in conjunction with the device’s gyroscope and/or magnetometer, to trigger other commands. For example, you can turn off your ringtone simply by turning your phone face down. Or, if you shake your device, or move it sharply to the left or right, commands are issued that take the place of pressing a “hot key.”

When you’re standing in front of your TV, with your Wii controller in your hand, about to swing your virtual golf club or smash a winning forehand down the side of a virtual tennis court, think about the amazing accelerometer quietly at work while you play.

Laptop Computers
While you’re not likely to start moving your laptop around with the same degree of vigor as you would a smaller, handheld device, accelerometer still have a very important role to play in our portable computers. If you suddenly drop your laptop, or it gets knocked off your desk, for example, the accelerometer would, within a fraction of a second, realize that the device was in free – fall and immediately turn off the hard drive. This effectively stops the impact from the fall from driving the reading heads into the hard drive platter.

Travelling by plane? Highly sensitive accelerometer are an integral part of an aircraft’s inertial navigation system. Involved in a car accident? Accelerometer are the industry standard for detecting a sudden stop and deploying airbags. They are also becoming increasingly common in automatic systems that recognize when a vehicle is in a skid and instantly activate braking mechanisms.

Watson Industries designs and manufactures several high-performance accelerometer, including the ProAccel® triaxial accelerometer. Visit us for more information.

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