Accelerometer Basics

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Contributors: Toni_K
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How to Connect to an Accelerometer

For most accelerometers, the basic connections required for operation are power and the communication lines. As always, read the datasheet to ensure proper connections are made.

Communication Interface

Accelerometers will communicate over an analog, digital, or pulse-width modulated connection interface.

  • Analog - Accelerometers with an analog interface show accelerations through varying voltage levels. These values generally fluctuate between ground and the supply voltage level. An ADC on a microcontroller can then be used to read this value. These are generally less expensive than digital accelerometers.

  • Digital - Accelerometers with a digital interface can either communicate over SPI or I2C communication protocols. These tend to have more functionality and be less susceptible to noise than analog accelerometers.

  • Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) - Accelerometers that output data over pulse-width modulation (PWM) output square waves with a known period, but a duty cycle that varies with changes in acceleration.

Power

Accelerometers are generally low-power devices. The required current typically falls in the micro (µ) or milli-amp range, with a supply voltage of 5V or less. The current consumption can vary depending on the settings (e.g., power saving mode versus standard operating mode). These different modes can make accelerometers well suited for battery powered applications.

Make sure that proper logic levels are matched, especially with the digital interfaces.