A great start for our smart sensors

ABB’s new smart sensors and condition monitoring solution open the way for easy monitoring of millions of electric motors.

Ever since they were first introduced about 120 years ago, motors have always been rather “dumb”. But our smart sensors are now changing this, kicking off an evolution that’s making motors into intelligent devices capable of signaling when they need servicing. This is the era of Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution.

The easy route to the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP) is empowering our customers to reap the huge benefits of digitalization. Our smart sensors will enable millions of motors to be part of the IoTSP, integrating them into Industry 4.0 projects. The beauty of these sensors is that they can be used by both large and small-scale enterprises – they are low cost, can be quickly installed and are easy to use. Furthermore, they offer many exciting opportunities for new types of services.

In Germany, a lot of companies have already launched Industry 4.0 projects. One company, a group that operates globally, asked us to propose some ideas for their own Industry 4.0 initiative. In contrast to other market players, we were able to provide a solution that’s already available – the smart sensors we had just developed. I’d been involved in the development process, so I saw it as a great chance to find out whether our sensors would perform as effectively in the field as they did in the lab.

We started out by attaching smart sensors to various pump motors at the customer’s plant. The sensors not only did their job extremely well but they also enabled us to collect a lot of data. We’ve been able to use the data to further customize solutions, making the customer’s production processes and maintenance even more efficient. Thanks to the smart sensors, unplanned downtime and production losses are now things of the past.

A very satisfied customer

After the sensors had been installed and commissioned, we handed out smartphones to the customer’s service staff so they could read the motor data. Then we went with the customer on a short tour of the plant, checking every motor. The whole plant walk-around took less than an hour. Customer staff were very impressed by the intuitive interface and said they would have no problems monitoring the motors themselves. After the long development phase, it was great to hear positive feedback on the intuitive way our solution works.

We also received a lot of praise from the customer’s motor service crew. Previously, specialized service and maintenance staff had to drag all their equipment from one system to another to carry out measurements. Now they can get the same measurements simply by looking at their smartphone screen. They, too, were really pleased with our small and smart sensors, which can be attached quickly and easily to all LV motors. The service crew will no longer need to rely on random checks to monitor their motors, because our sensors make it easy to do continuous monitoring and keep the plant running.


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About the author

Ulf Ahrend

I work at the ABB Research Center in Ladenburg, Germany where I specialize in sensor-based condition monitoring and ‘energy harvesting’ technology. I studied Physics followed by a post graduate in Mechanical Engineering. Sensor technology has always been a focus of my work.
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