When Good Pumps Become Smart

Over the years, engineers have become very proficient at manufacturing “good” and even “excellent” pumps. Industry professionals have established many standards for correct installation practices and perfected their ability to run the pumps in a professional and efficient manner. Decades of training, learning and experience have built up a lot of knowledge. The question is: will this be enough for tomorrow?
“Good“ is Not Enough

Many businesses and markets are disrupted by digitization and digital solutions. Book sellers, taxi drivers and hotel owners are a few examples of professionals who often have this experience. The questions that inevitably arise for pump industry professionals are, can this also happen to the pump market? And, can pumps and pipes be transformed into a digital web service or smartphone APP? While the pump industry will always have “real” hardware, as a virtual solution would not be effective, the pumps of tomorrow will not only by made of steel or aluminum but will also have additional digital components; pumps will always be real physical products, but they will be smart. Manufacturing excellence, high quality and efficiency alone will not be sufficient in future to meet the needs of the market. In addition to these competences manufacturers also need to integrate digital features into their products. “Smart” or “digital” features mean that the pump can create and send data, can communicate with other components or controllers and is an active part in the digital twin of a building or a municipal water supply system.

Advantages of Smart Pumps

When a pump is simultaneously pumping material and sending data, it can become an active part of an advanced maintenance strategy. Information about bearing temperature, voltage, current and leakages can help prevent unexpected breakdowns. Trends can be monitored and warnings can be sent before a critical situation is reached. This preventative measure is very helpful for keeping systems running. 

If pump stations in a wastewater system are communicating with each other, the risk of flooding can be reduced in cases of heavy rainfall. Such a system was developed and tested in Berlin, Germany at the technical university. Six pump stations were connected together by wireless communication and sent the water level in each station to a controller (see figure 2). The risk of an overflow in station 5 was significantly reduced when station 1 – 4 were able to adapt their control algorithm to the current rainfall levels [1].

This example explains how digitization and transfer of remote data can enhance the value of a pump. Depending on the application there are a number of additional beneficial opportunities if pumps become smart. The potential benefits could be predicated on GPS geo-data, reduced energy consumption by optimized use of frequency inverters and other data.

Figure 2: Depiction of a connected waste-water pump-station.
Figure 2: Depiction of a connected waste-water pump-station.
Steps to a Digital Pump

How can a pump become smart and digital? Next to the well-known parameters of an existing high-quality pump, such as the selection of materials, experienced design of the geometry and dimensions and a reliable manufacturing process, sensors and digitizing data capabilities need to be incorporated into the design. Often, sensors for winding temperature in the motor, or leakage, are already used in pumps as a safety precaution. A good way to develop a smart pump is therefore to start with already existing sensors and add sensors and values to the electronic module which creates additional value. Figure 3 showcases such a module: The Kriwan INT69YF is a pump protection module which has a digital interface and can send measured data to a smartphone, a laptop or a controller. Several important sensors can be connected to the module and the protection relay fulfills both the reliable pump protection and adds smart digital features to the pump. Some features that can be added include: a data logger, a real-time monitor and the possibility to customize the relay with a smartphone App. The following sensors can be connected:

• Motor winding temperature (PTC, PT100, PT1000 or bimetal)
• 2 x bearing temperature (PTC, PT100 or PT1000)
• 2 x leakage (conductivity measurement)
• 1 general purpose 4 – 20 mA input (e.g. vibration or pressure)
• Phase monitoring (undervoltage, phase loss, phase sequence…)

The above mentioned sensors measure physical parameters of the pump and / or the process. Depending on the application, different sensors are used; in some cases the metal housing of the pump is used as one pole of the leakage measurement, in other cases two isolated pins are used. Depending on the application, the 4-20 mA input can be wired to a vibration sensor, a pressure transmitter or a similar data source. An advantage of the above mentioned relay is its ability to be adjusted and programmed with a smartphone APP. This feature enables quick and easy adaptation to individual local requirements in the field, as well as factory pre-setting of default settings. The connectivity is set-up by eight removable screw connectors. This enables factory pre-setting of the cables and wires.

In case the pump is in a critical situation and can be damaged, the protection relay can switch off the pump. Severe damage can be avoided and the pump is protected. All those sensors also measure data which can be of great value for other components of the application: e.g. a controller would know if the phase sequence is incorrect and if a centrifugal pump is working at a low efficiency. The interface to the controller can be set up easily with a Modbus gateway. All the data can then be transmitted to a smartphone (iOS, Android or Windows Mobile) or to a laptop, via Bluetooth or USB. This helps a service technician in the field to identify the root cause of a failure and to fix issues in an application. A complete eco-system of gateways, cables and software is available.
Figure 3: Pump protection module for smart pumps.
Figure 3: Pump protection module for smart pumps.

Smart pumps are one of the major trends in today’s industry. Digital pumps can add value and strengthen the relationship between manufacturer and customer. To progress into the digital world, it is a good option to use sensors already implemented in the system for pump protection and enhance their usage and functionality with an improved pump protection relay.


Ellwein, C: Digitalisierung von Verdichtern, Pumpen und Ventilatoren; Offenbach: VDE-Verlag; 2019

About the Author

Christian Ellwein is the CEO of KRIWAN Industrie-Elektronik GmbH, in Forchtenberg, Germany. With over 20 years of experience, Ellwein began his career as a R&D Team Manager and has progressively advanced in the industry to achieve his current position. He has a bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Applied Science at Heilbronn and achieved his PHD at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, England.

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