What is an Accelerometer? Types and Applications

What is an Accelerometer?

What is an Accelerometer?

An accelerometer is a device made up of one or more components that measure acceleration and tilt. It is used in a variety of applications, from monitoring vibration in industrial settings to tracking your steps on your phone’s health app. Let’s explore what an accelerometer is, some of its applications, and the different types available.

What does an Accelerometer Measure?

An accelerometer measures linear acceleration—the rate of change in velocity in a given direction over time. This is distinct from angular acceleration, which refers to the rate of change in angular velocity over time. The data collected by an accelerometer can be used to determine the orientation or position of the device relative to its starting point.  

Applications for Accelerometers

Accelerometers are primarily used to measure vibration, motion, shock, and tilt. They are commonly used in cell phones and tablets as part of their motion sensors—for example, they can tell when you turn your device sideways so it can switch between portrait and landscape mode. They are also widely used in fitness trackers like Fitbit to count your steps throughout the day. In industrial settings, accelerometers may be used to monitor vibration levels during operation that could indicate impending mechanical failure or other irregularities requiring maintenance. 

Types of Accelerometers

There are several different types of accelerometers that all have their unique features and capabilities. Piezoelectric accelerometers use piezoelectric crystals that create an electrical charge when subjected to mechanical stress; this type is typically used for measuring low-frequency vibrations such as those created by wind turbines or generators. Capacitive accelerometers use two parallel plates with a gap between them that changes resistance when exposed to acceleration; this type is often used for measuring high-frequency vibrations like those produced by engines or aircraft. MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) accelerometers use tiny moving parts inside a microchip; these are especially popular because they can be made very small while still being quite accurate—making them ideal for mobile devices like smartphones and wearables like smartwatches.


In summary, an accelerometer is a device made up of one or more components that measure acceleration and tilt. It has many applications, ranging from fitness tracking on mobile devices to monitoring machinery in industrial settings. There are several different types available, including piezoelectric, capacitive, and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), which vary depending on the level of precision needed for each application. Understanding how each type works will help you decide which type best fits your needs!

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