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MEMS vs. Geophones Proven Effective for Construction Vibration Monitoring

Updated: Mar 11

Independent testing proves MEMS accelerometers not only meet ISEE standards for vibration monitoring equipment - they exceed solenoid geophone performance at both low and high frequencies.


Solenoid geophones have been the industry's default technology for construction vibration monitoring for decades.

Maybe it’s time that changed.

Why? Because, at frequencies within ISEE standards of 2Hz – 250Hz, solenoid geophones can give acceptable results. But below that? Studies have found that errors in PPV values for 10Hz geophones can range from -40% to +30%.

Why is this important? Because the natural frequencies of many large structures -- like buildings and bridges -- as well as certain soil profiles, often fall within the lower frequency range. Low frequency is the range where the largest risk for structural damage occurs.

Let’s put this 70-point error range in everyday context:

  • If a deli counter weigh scale weighed 40% less lunch meat than you paid for, you’d probably complain to the manager.

  • If a doctor’s thermometer measured your temperature at 59.2F instead of 98.6F, the doctor would throw it in the trash.

No one should accept such performance deficiencies in everyday life. The good news is that you no longer need to accept them in your vibration monitoring equipment, either. Unlike geophones, MEMS accelerometers not only reliably perform better than solenoid geophones at frequencies below 2Hz – they perform better above 125Hz as well.

Here's proof:

Construction vibration monitoring test results - x axis

Construction vibration monitoring test results - Y axis

Construction vibration monitoring test results - Z transverse

These charts, generated from testing conducted by an independent, third-party lab, compare the MEMS technology used by the Inzwa Veva III vibration monitor to a solenoid geophone-based vibration monitor against the ISEE standard. The geophone-based device performed as the manufacturer advertised and as any field practitioner would expect, and was consistent with the manufacturer's calibration report. Both sensing technologies performed within specifications in the middle part of the range. What’s glaring, however, is the superior performance of the MEMS technology at both the lower and upper ranges of the scale:

  • Lower Range: at 1.5Hz, the geophone-based sensor had approximately 2dB lower response than the 40g MEMS sensor. At 1Hz, that performance gap grew to approximately 8dB – 60% lower than the MEMS sensor.

  • Upper Range: At frequency levels above 125 Hz, performance differences as high as 24% were recorded between the different technologies, with the MEMS sensor providing more accurate readings. Also note that beyond the ISEE’s upper limit of 250Hz, the MEMS technology continued to perform better than the geophone-based sensor.

Data is clear - MEMS accelerometers provide superior performance in construction vibration monitoring at low and high frequencies

MEMS technology for construction vibration monitoring is here to stay.

MEMS technology is redefining modern technology. It's leading to improved performance and innovative applications across diverse industries including:

  • Automotive: MEMS devices are found in airbag deployment systems, tire pressure monitoring, electronic stability control, and inertial navigation systems.

  • Biomedical: MEMS enables advancements in drug delivery systems, lab-on-a-chip devices, implantable sensors, and microfluidic devices.

  • Consumer Electronics: MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes are used in smartphones, microphones, and MEMS-based pico-projectors.

  • Aerospace and Defense: MEMS devices contribute to navigation systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and satellite systems.

MEMS accelerometers are in use on the Mars Rover, Perseverence

The test results cited above prove that MEMS is advancing performance and innovation in our construction vibration monitoring industry as well.

Want more proof?

  • See Vibration Monitoring Research: MEMS Accelerometers in Blast-Induced Shock and Vibration Monitoring, presented at the 2023 ISEE National Conference.

See The Use of MEMS Accelerometers in Construction Vibration Monitoring, by Gerald Verbeek, MsC.

In addition to the superior performance cited by multiple studies, our MEMS-based devices offer other advantages including compact size, easier installation, lower power consumption and full power and connectivity integration.


Steve Jobs quote on innovation

According to Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” We invite you to be a leader and embrace the innovation and improved performance that MEMS technology can provide to your construction vibration monitoring.


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