The Accelerometer Is the New Enhanced Offspring of the GPS
Well to be honest, although I use some of the technology, I’m still unfamiliar with the technical aspects of most of the devices. But when using a specific app, sometimes it triggers my curiosity and I start digging for information about how this and that works. For example, have you ever wondered how the compass on your iPhone functions? How does it know the phone’s orientation? It turned out that smart phones comprise something called accelerometer, gyroscope & along with the GPS.
An accelerometer is a sensor which measures the tilting motion and orientation of a mobile phone. If you think the GPS is cool, wait until you know about the accelerometer and what it can do.
Accelerometer is integrated within devices for a variety of reasons; it has a different purpose for each device. Let’s take laptops for example, the accelerometer is merely integrated to protect the hard drives from damage upon sudden falls. It works alike in cars where the it detects the car crash and thus deploying the airbags immediately.
In smart phones, accelerometers are used to determine the angle at which the phone is tilted. By sensing the acceleration, it can be detected in what direction the phone is moving.
“Typical accelerometers are made up of multiple axes, two to determine most two-dimensional movement with the option of a third for 3D positioning. Most smart phones typically make use of three-axis models, whereas cars simply use only a two-axis to determine the moment of impact. The sensitivity of these devices is quite high as they’re intended to measure even very minute shifts in acceleration. The more sensitive the accelerometer, the more easily it can measure acceleration. “
So what is the difference between an accelerometer and GPS?
So basically, an accelerometer is a device that measures acceleration as well as the titling motion & the orientation of the device. I bet you’ve played one of the games on your phone that involved tilting your device in order to move the avatar. Right there lays its purpose, where it senses your tilt and sent a signal to the game to move your avatar. It is also used in fitness apps where it measures how many miles you’ve crossed & how many steps you’ve taken.
GPS on the other hand, use a completely different method; by monitoring your exact position using the Global Positioning Satellite network, which tracks your route, speed, and altitude..
Now the real question is: Why do we think that the accelerometer will replace the GPS? Let me tell you why. It is way cheaper than GPS devices. The technology that goes into building an accelerometer (given the fact that they are very tiny chips) is much cheaper than the electronics required for a device that communicates with satellites.
Moreover, unlike GPS, accelerometer works perfectly fine underground & under harsh weather conditions, where GPS enabled devices need to communicate with the satellite network, they often stop working in remote place or when it’s rainy for example. It doesn’t, however, transmit data or only transmit the distance between your foot and your phone, so they don’t get disrupted. Moreover, it has better calibration procedures and calculation algorithms which mean more accurate data.
That being said, accelerometers have come a long way, and are continuing to get even more accurate. Even though GPS units’ prices are remarkably declining, they’re still a lot more costly than accelerometer-based.
In essence, GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer on phones all work together to create the perfect navigation system.