“Wearables” for Electric Motors

Sensors will allow remote capability

Remotes have never done anything except make everything easier. Today, research includes exploring how they can be applicable to industrial electric motors. “Wearables” are sensors that can be placed on motors and remotely linked to, and controlled by, smartphones or other portable electronic devices.

These emerging technologies have attracted a number of beta users that have been testing the sensors and reporting systems. The sensors, which are about the size of a smartphone, are mounted on the outside of an electric motor and can measure operating temperatures, vibration and other factors to give users insights on a motor’s health. The applicable motors typically run pumps, large fans, or compressors.

Wearables are already popular in the unfathomable world of gadgets. Smartwatches, for one, incorporate multiple functions: they can track biometrics, link to hundreds of apps (such as transportation and on-the-go payment services), and are embedded in athletic clothing to measure electromyography (which previously required thousands of dollars worth of equipment). You’ve heard about Google glasses — another wearable. Wearables can measure sun exposure and serve as hotel keys. Insecticides could eventually be embedded in clothing as another wearable to stave off mosquitoes. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel previewed some wearables earlier this week at Hannover Messe.

But this development is key for the industrial electric motor sector, specifically. There’s a noticeable gap being slowly bridged between the tried-and-true methods of plant facilities and the new technologies that can aid in their associated processes and tasks. It’s hard to put your trust in something you can’t see, something that has a mind of its own. Smart devices might seem like an annoying little kid, always flashing their knowledge, but they can be very helpful in maintenance and reliability.

ABB, one of the companies pioneering electric motor wearables, hopes to see them applied to motors spanning a broad range in size, from a fraction of one horsepower to thousands of horsepower, according to Michael Offik, an engineer and the director of packaged solutions for ABB.

“We expect that this can help provide a 70 percent reduction in downtime,” Offik told eWEEK. “In the end, it’s good for the users.”

And while the upcoming ABB smart sensor system is currently aimed at the company’s own electric motors, the concept could potentially be expanded to other markets, including automotive electronics such as alternators and electric car motors, and other uses.

“There’s nothing that says you can’t apply the same technology to other things,” Offik contends.

The ABB sensor system, for one, is expected to be available later this year. Batteries in the sensors are expected to last between three to five years. Systems in general will work with Android or iOS smartphones.

And what will this leading edge technology cost? Well, that’s the remaining question, in a lot of people’s minds.


  1. Hannover Messe 2016 | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - April 28, 2016

    […] POTUS and his German affiliate both tested out wearables designed for electric motors. They also toured the floor and experienced a number of other new […]

  2. You Know The Drill | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - September 28, 2017

    […] move independently from start to finish. San Francisco-based Parsable has also been an advocate of wearable technology for the oil & gas […]

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