Smart Elevator and Escalator Solutions Make for Smarter People Flow

Over the last decade, advances in AI and IoT have changed elevators and escalators beyond their mechanical function of getting people up and down in high-rises with speed and comfort. They have become more intelligent by connecting to the cloud where the data they collect can be analyzed and acted upon to help avoid breakdowns.

 

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Image credit: Kone

Elevator and escalator maintenance have traditionally been governed by a calendar-based process. The challenge with this process is that mechanical parts and components don’t necessarily adhere to a predetermined failure timetable. There are many variables involved with how and when parts and components require servicing. However, with the deployment of new technologies, building operators and maintenance providers can now take a proactive approach to elevator and escalator maintenance, as opposed to relying on the traditional reactive one.

This new approach uses IoT and AI to gather equipment data from units in real time by utilizing remote-monitoring devices. As the usage data from each component in the elevator or escalator is captured, it is analyzed interactively to understand the performance of each individual unit. This way potential issues can be predicted in advance. This not only enables maintenance to be carried out in a pre-planned manner, but also avoids any disruption to the users, such as someone getting stuck inside the elevator. This in turn, becomes an integral part of the smart building ecosystem.

The Up and Down of Data Flow

One company, KONE, has been using IBM’s Watson IoT Platform and Predictive Maintenance Insights as part of its KONE 24/7 Connected Services offering. This offering allows building operators and maintenance providers to detect potential problems before having to dispatch maintenance crews to visit the site. 

Elevators and escalators are able to “talk” by sending M2M communications and messages through their server. Leveraging IoT-based monitoring technology, KONE 24/7 Connected Services monitors elevator performance based on set parameters to identify peak periods of elevator usage in real time. In addition to providing predictive maintenance benefits, people flow efficiencies are easily optimized as well.

Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) already offer proactive management solutions for elevator maintenance. The challenge is that these solutions can be very costly. More importantly, these solutions oftentimes do not work with older elevators.

This is where companies such as Datahoist come in. Datahoist allows building owners and operators to transform traditional elevators into smart elevators. Their solution installs on any elevator, regardless of make or model. It collects motion and telemetry data from the elevator without integration with the actual elevator controller, and can also track ride quality and door behavior.

The technology works by having cartop and door sensors send real-time streaming data through an edge gateway to Datahoist software, hosted by Microsoft Azure cloud, where the data can be immediately processed and analyzed. By utilizing AI and deep learning, the system recognizes patterns and sends alerts and notifications to building managers or maintenance crews on any anomalies it detects, well before an elevator breaks down.

Rolling Out with Smart Partnerships 

Datahoist is a case in point about why partnerships are important. The company found out quickly that there was significant demand for its solutions from independent elevator service companies and property managers. Independent service companies wanted to offer Datahoist’s products to their own customers, which number anywhere from hundreds to the tens of thousands. Datahoist wanted to move quickly to deliver its products to the market, as soon as possible but lacked the necessary infrastructure to do so.

Graphic showing data streaming from elevator to PC

Image credit: Datahoist

Datahoist first partnered with AAEON to build a prototype device. AAEON designs and manufactures advanced industrial and embedded computing platforms. Datahoist soon found that to scale up quickly and get a marketable price point for its device, it would be required to buy from AAEON in volume. 

Without the necessary internal infrastructure to execute in volume, Datahoist decided to also partner with solution aggregator Arrow. Arrow not only enabled Datahoist to buy from AAEON in volume, Arrow also provided crucial logistics, supply chain, and co-selling capabilities. Datahoist engineers are also still working with Arrow’s design team and components group to develop Datahoist’s future products. In the end, these strategic partnerships empowered Datahoist to move quickly to market with the newest product, while still remaining focused on their existing solutions and customers.

A Big Lift Ahead: The Smart Elevator Market

According to MarketsandMarkets, the smart elevator market is expected to be worth $26 billion by the year 2022. Combine this with the prediction that some 30 percent of skilled elevator technicians in the US will be retiring in the next four years, and this portends to be a huge opportunity for developers and integrators of smart people flow solutions.

 

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