IOT PUTS A NEW SPIN
How one of the oldest mechanical
devices became a poster child for the
Internet of Things. By Alan S. Brown
As anyone who ever had a bearing fail knows, du- rability counts. So, imagine the reaction of bear- ing engineers and tribologists at a recent Bearing World conference when a keynote speaker from
one of the world’s largest bearing makers announced that
predictability is more important than longer bearing life.
The researchers in the audience had spent years modeling the interaction of moving parts, loads, and wear to
model bearing lifespans, keynoter Victoria van Camp,
SKF Group’s president for innovation and business development, recalled.
“So, what if we could combine those models with
real-time data on bearing performance?” she asked. “It
would be difficult, but then we could say, ‘I know for a
fact that this bearing will fail next week, rather than say,
‘ 10 percent of these bearings will fail within a certain
While some researchers argued that this was impos-
sible, van Camp was adamant: “This has to become the
norm, because no one should accept a failed bearing
shutting down a factory.”
Her vision goes far beyond condition monitoring done
in many factories today. By harnessing the Internet of
Things (Io T) and other Industry 4.0 technologies—low-
cost sensors, Big Data analytics, and machine learn-
ing—SKF and its competitors want to catapult one of the
world’s oldest mechanical devices into the digital future.
In fact, bearings are emerging as a poster child for Industry 4.0. Yet this heady mixture of digital technology
and physical products is also disrupting how companies
monitor, operate, and service rotating equipment; the
way they sell and service products; and who they partner
with and compete against.