How can I track a device's location (x,y,z coordinates) as well as the direction the device is facing (north, south, up, down, etc.)?

Standard accelerometers are not precise enough for very small scale (personal hand-held devices) and tend to drift.

In addition, satellite GPS is not available in the location where this device would be used.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ GPS provides position. GPS doesn't provide orientation. FYI $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2015 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ What's the scale of the environment? Inertial Nav systems have been around for years. They can be smaller and lighter than ever since they're now using MEMS. $\endgroup$
    – DLS3141
    Jul 31, 2015 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ A compass is a useful device for understanding the direction. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2015 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ What is the engineering application? $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2015 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ Key question - what scale/range/speed do you want. eg does this all fit in a 2m per side cube - or hundreds of metres. Does this move at 1mm/hour or 100 m/s or ...? There are a range of potential solutions but we need to know what the rEAL questiuon is to best suggest them. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2015 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


There are several way to address your question, on such way is to use a

  1. Magnetometer to track North, West, East, South etc
  2. Barometric Pressure Sensor to measure up & down (elevation)
  3. Accelerometers to track motion/speed

Depending on your application our sensing elements can be added to improve accuracy.

Also take a look a the concept dead reckoning. Algorithm developed using dead reckoning can address the lack of GPS satellite signal. Dead reckoning is commonly used in automotive navigation application as well as some enterprise handheld applications. I also responded to a similar post on electrical engineering stackexchange, and link is listed below.



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