How a Smartphone Knows Up From Down (Accelerometer)

Have you ever wondered how your phone’s compass knows which way you’re headed?

It’s all down to the accelerometer, which is built into the circuitry of all modern-day smartphones. It can detect changes in orientation and tell the phone to respond accordingly by rotating its screen.

Accelerometers are made up of two fundamental parts.

The first is the housing, which attaches tothe object in question. The second is some form of mass, which is capable of moving when the object’s orientation changes. This movement is the key to how it works, and is what the device measures in order to identify a change in the phone’s orientation.

The accelerometer fi tted inside a smartphone is an incredible piece of engineering. It is only 500 microns across, and is made by etching into a piece of silicon using potassium hydroxide.

SmartphoneThis clever device can be used for more than just identifying the orientation. It can be employed in gaming, particularly in driving games, where the user steers a vehicle by tilting their smartphone.

They can also be used like a pedometer to track your daily steps, or even to detect tremors as part of an earthquake early warning system.

Apple has included an accelerometer in each generation of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch…

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