Network-emitting Accelerometer Protocol

This protocol defines a means through which accelerometer-enabled devices can send, and other devices receive, accelerometer data via an IP network.

The protocol is realtime and so is best deployed on a LAN-basis. The transport used is UDP, because reliability is considered a convenience at best.


Each datagram is encapsuled in a four-byte header:

| uint16_t type | uint16_t size | data...         |

The type defines what kind of data the datagram contains. See Type definitions.

The size says how long the entire datagram is, including its header. (But of course not including its UDP and IP headers.)

Following the two header fields is the data, which differs in structure from message type to message type.

Message targetting

Each sending device can either broadcast the messages it sends, or unicast to a specific pre-configured host. In the future this might be possible to do via some means of remote configuration.

The UDP port used both for unicast and broadcast is 5612.

Type definitions

0x01, announce

The announcement message is intended for future use as a means for devices to identify themselves in a human-readable fashion. It might also be that these messages contain device identification information. (DUID and the likes.)

This code is reserved.

0x02, measurement
The essence of the protocol, see Measurement data

Measurement data

The measurement message contains four values:

| float32 timestamp | float64 x | float64 y | float64 z |

The encoding of the floating-point data is as specified by IEEE 754, in network order (i.e. big endian).

This means to say that the following little-endian 32-bit float 12.34:

a4 70 45 41

Would be encoded on the wire as:

41 45 70 af

The timestamp is not expected to be relative to any meaningful definition of time, rather that it increments by exactly 1 for every second passed. This in effect means that the receiver has to compensate to get human-readable timestamps. A suggestion for how this problem is to be solved can be found in Ordering & time issues.

Accelerometer values for each axis is in units of g-force, where a value of 1.0 represents acceleration of about +1 g along that axis. When a device is laying with its back flat on a horizontal surface, the expected values are (x=0, y=0, z=-1).

Ordering & time issues

Because UDP is a stateless protocol and does not guarantee the order of datagrams, it is necessary for a receiver to check the timestamps of received datagrams to ensure that the measurement received is later than the previous.

In the reference implementation, the receiver drops measurements if they are older than the most recent measurement. This has the side-effect that it ensures only one device's measurements will be received and acted upon.

The reference implementation yields actual timestamps through a fairly simple algorithm. It works by noting when the first measurement arrived and what timestamp it had, and then compensating by that amount when the next measurement arrives.

Of course, such a simple strategy will be desynchronized ever so slightly, depending on the latency of the network during the transmission of that first measurement.