The Accelerometer – Ordinary Uses of an Extraordinary Device

Often, when people are trying to explain a subject to someone, they will say, “Well, it’s not exactly rocket science!” However, in the case of accelerometers, rocket science is exactly what it is! When mounted into a spacecraft, an accelerometer can measure changes in the rocket’s speed, as well as determine its apogee (when a space craft is at its maximum distance from Earth for example, its acceleration due to gravity it at its lowest). It can also determine the orientation of the spacecraft.

But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to benefit from the amazing invention that is the accelerometer. We actually come into contact with this incredible piece of engineering on a daily basis, as we go about our everyday lives.

Vehicle Applications
For example, when the accelerometer in a modern car detects a sudden and drastic change in a car’s speed – such as emergency braking immediately prior to an accident – it will send a signal to trigger an electrical circuit that makes the airbags inflate.

Hand Held Devices
Smartphones, MP3 players and handheld games controllers and consoles all have built-in accelerometers so that they can sense when they are being tilted from side to side. This is also how they know when to change the screen orientation from landscape to portrait, or vice versa. Many games and apps that require the device to be shaken or moved quickly rely on accelerometers to detect this movement.

Domestic Appliances
Many washing machines also make use of this technology so that they can sense when the load is off balance, and switch off the motor so that it doesn’t spin erratically, causing damage. Most heating appliances, such as irons and electric heaters, are also equipped with accelerometers that will detect when the appliance has fallen over, and will switch it off to avoid potential fires.

Medical Applications
The medical profession, too, is finding wonderful uses for accelerometers. For example, recent technological advancements mean inexpensive, miniature sensors can provide reliable information on any abnormalities in the mobility and gait of elderly people. This data can be used to help prevent falls, which are a significant cause of injury and even death in this age group.

Watson Industries supplies cost-effective, custom products to a wide variety of industries worldwide, including aviation, aerospace, automotive and marine, among others. Visit us at www.watson-gyro.com to see what we can do for you.

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