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ABB works to revolutionize cable protection with intelligent device

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Decades of engineering work have gone into the production of liquid tight fittings and conduits that can withstand everything from chemical exposure to physical abuse. Today conduits can’t alert their human handlers if liquid has condensed inside them, or heat is building to a failure point, or their physical integrity has been compromised.

Research & development engineers at ABB are working to integrate sensors in cable protection systems that can remotely monitor the presence of internal liquid, undue heating and physical breaks. They are developing devices that can easily attach to a conduit, harvest data and send it wirelessly to a phone, tab or laptop, with software to analyze it for human eyes. All of that needs to go into a package that can withstand the same pressures and harsh environments that the conduit itself must withstand, while requiring little or no maintenance of its own.

The project is getting a boost from the two of the most powerful tools in ABB’s arsenal. The first is ABB Ability™ — a wireless, cloud-based platform that is designed to weave the threads of countless electronic inputs into the smart factory of the future. The other is the Smart Sensor — existing ABB devices designed to remotely monitor similar data in electric motors, bearings and pumps in similarly challenging environments.

What is this project about ?
For the Smart Cable Protection Systems project, we asked ourselves two basic questions: How can we make our products more intelligent and how can we generate added value for customers from this? You always listen and read how the mega trend of digitalization will change everything. But innovations don’t just come about on their own. Our idea was to break down the mega trend for our cable protection systems as well.
Why is the project a world first?
Products such as cable protection systems exist for the protection and installation of cables. How can you make these products intelligent and integrate them into information networks in order to make them ready for Industry 4.0 and smart factories? We equip our cable protection products with sensors for this purpose. The special thing about them: The cable protection systems we are envisioning don’t exist on the market yet. They can detect water ingress, which might be present due to damage, or due to condensation in the electrical system, which is a big problem in many applications. Particularly im-portant is the discovery of water ingress in industrial food applications, as it could spread dangerous germs in the electrical system. This allows us to carry out inspections automatically, increase safety, and in the future perhaps also make a service-life forecast.

What was the biggest challenge?
Integrating the sensor solution into a suitable hardware and software environment seemed to be the most difficult part. Sensors must be supplied with power. The data must be transmitted, stored, and visualized. Fortunately, we had already solved a similar challenge in our portfolio: Our ABB Ability™ Smart Sensor solution, which you know from motor and pump sensors! Apps, the storage of data in the cloud with visualization via the web-based monitoring portal as well as the necessary hardware are available for this purpose.
Our developed prototypes with moisture and temperature sensors transfer data via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to the gateway and beyond to the apps as well as the ABB Ability Smart Sensor platform in order to collect and visualize the data from the sensors.

What time will this new solution be available?
Smart Cable Protection Systems is expected to be available for customers in 2020.