IoT Smart Sensors Use Cloud for Low Power Motor Condition Monitoring

Condition monitoring, a technology that has been slowly moving forward for a number of years, is reaching toward its potential with new solutions for low voltage motors. Monitoring the operating condition of motors has obvious availability and productivity benefits, enabling a new level of preventive maintenance. But now the combination of compact sensors, cloud connectivity, and application software is creating a new level of operating data transparency.

Siemens smart sensor for motor

At this year’s SPS IPC Drives Show, Siemens demonstrated the connectivity of Simotics IQ, its new IoT concept for Simotics drive technology. Image source: Siemens

New IoT Drive Concepts

At the recent SPS Show in Nuremberg, Germany, Siemens demonstrated a new IoT concept for its Simotics drive technology for monitoring the operating condition of low voltage motors using a connection to the MindSphere open IoT operating system. Using a compact sensor box to capture operating and condition parameters, and transmit them via WiFi to the cloud, operating data can then be analyzed by the Simotics IQ MindApp on MindSphere.

Improved monitoring of key performance indicators such as temperature or transient oscillation allows the user to react more quickly to changing conditions. By applying specifically configurable warning limits and intelligent analytics, the customer can plan maintenance activities and react before plant downtime occurs. By integrating several motors, Simotics IQ MindApp is able to not only support the full condition, monitoring range but also to manage an installed fleet including distinct areas such as energy consumption or maintenance scheduling.

Condition Monitoring for Low Voltage Motors

Recently, ABB also introduced its Ability Smart Sensor condition monitoring solution targeting low voltage motors. By monitoring and analyzing data on motor operating parameters, ABB claims this approach will enable motors to reduce downtime by as much as 70 percent, extend motor lifetimes by up to 30 percent and reduce energy consumption by up to 10%.

Smart sensing technology is implemented using a compact sensor unit that attaches to motors without the need for wiring. Selected ranges of ABB LV motors can be factory-fitted with the sensors as an option or, for already installed motors, retrofit kits are available that enable motors to be field upgraded with sensors.

The sensor monitors motor signals and measures key parameters at regular intervals. At this point, it transfers the data using Bluetooth to a smartphone but the future plan is to communicate with an ABB gateway and ultimately to a secure cloud-based server.  Using the ABB Ability Smart Sensor app, users can check the status of motors with a smartphone. The interface provides a ‘traffic light’ display and quick overview of all the motors that are being monitored, and recommendations on how to optimize maintenance and reduce costs.

IoT Smart Sensor Technology

The simplicity of combining smart sensors, wireless communications and cloud connectivity seems to offer a path for implementing condition monitoring on a much wider basis, even if the initial products are targeting low voltage motors. It will be interesting to see how quickly these innovations will spread to additional areas but almost certainly this general approach offers a workable solution for accurate monitoring of motor parameters that can potentially be used to implement much stronger preventive maintenance programs.

Work on advanced algorithms for condition monitoring, especially for motor/drive systems, has been in the works for years. But now it seems that the extensive know-how developed to analyze motor data and produce meaningful information is also being driven by new methods that could help propel much higher levels of adoption.


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