There has been a global movement towards smarter cities, acknowledging the power of technology to make our daily lives easier and safer whilst providing customised experiences. Dubai’s own Smart City initiative is an excellent example of this and includes the use of IOT (Internet of Things) applications as well as a drive towards being paperless.
Within the elevator industry, this movement has been represented by the adoption of smart elevators. This has been occurring in the UAE, but also in other countries such as the US and China, both of whom have seen an increased willingness from private enterprises to spend significant amounts of capital on upgrading building infrastructure, thus allowing for more modern elevator systems.
Evidence of this trend can be seen in the relative growth rate of the smart elevator segment vs standard elevators. Researchers at Global Market Insights have forecast that the global smart elevator market will be worth $25 billion by 2025, up from $11 billion in 2018, implying an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 15%. This is in contrast to the total elevator market which is expected to grow at a steady rate of 4.9% over the same period, with the UAE elevator market growing at more or less the same rate.
Moreover, there is clearly space for the smart elevator segment to continue grabbing market share, given that currently only has about 12% of the total elevator market globally.
What Makes an Elevator “Smart”?
In line with the wider concept of smart cities, smart elevators use connectivity and technology in order to provide a better experience for consumers and to reduce or remove process inefficiencies for building managers.
A better experience can be provided through increasing safety, comfort, speed and providing interactive information.
On the other hand, reducing inefficiencies is primarily focused on increasing availability, making sure that human intervention is only required when and where necessary and minimising energy expenditure.
Here we look how smart elevators typically achieve these goals and the technology that they use to do so.
An effective predictive maintenance setup both increases safety levels and also makes the allocation of manpower and other resources more efficient. Data is electronically and automatically collected from the elevator and compared to the supplier’s database, which is stored in the cloud, looking for anomalies or underperformance that might indicate an upcoming flaw.
This then allows a maintenance team to quickly identify the relevant component that needs to be repaired or replaced and to do so in advance of failure. This method is more efficient than a traditional preventative maintenance program, as it avoids scheduling maintenance teams when they are not required and also means that parts are not replaced until they need to be (as opposed to being replaced according to a rigid schedule).
Examples of data gathered and analysed typically includes acceleration of the cab, speed at which the doors close and the status of components such as LEDs. The results of this data can also be translated into job requests and sent directly to the phones of appropriate maintenance teams via native apps.
Touch Screen Panels
Touch Screen Panels are another multi-purpose feature. They allow the display of information and ads complete with branding, however they are also useful in case of emergency, letting the building show maps and instructions for evacuation.
Traditional elevators have intercoms that allow passengers to communicate with an operator, whereas many smart elevators come equipped with a VOIP phone. This VOIP phone will usually have a built in failsafe, so that an alarm is triggered if the connection is lost at any point, letting management know that they need to check on the elevator and potentially repair the phone.
Some elevators come with software installed that tracks the location of the elevator and transmits it to a separate monitoring station. This allows the facilities team to be quickly alerted to any entrapment situations (where an elevator is stuck between floors), thus minimising response time.
In the US, smart elevators have even been advanced as a place of refuge in case of mass shootings or other such crises (due to being lockable) , although luckily this is not such a risk in the UAE.
Efficiency and Comfort
Many taller towers have started organizing elevator banks by groups of floors in tall towers in order to reduce waiting times.
Smart Grouping uses technology to develop and extend this concept. It requires users to select a floor prior to getting into the elevator, via an interactive touchscreen panel. This panel then analyses other requests and calculates which elevator to allocate the passenger to, with the aim of reducing waiting time, number of stops and crowding for everyone. This has the additional benefit of reducing elevator wear and tear and also saving energy (due to minimising the number of stops).
Microprocessor and Software Based Controls
The use of computerised systems in elevators, in place of electromechanical relays, also allows elevators to enter standby mode when not in use or at times of low traffic when multiple elevators are not needed. This is done through the use of sensors that can identify whether passengers are present or not and subsequently shut down ventilation, screens, lights, music and other functionality for extended periods of time, saving energy. This can also result in a huge cost saving, with an estimated 40% of the world’s energy consumption due to buildings and 25% of building energy consumption going on elevators. The implication of these figures is that approximately 10% of global energy consumption is due to elevators!
LEDs are effective, energy-saving alternatives for incandescent downlights in elevators and can handle the motion and movement of elevators without sustaining damage. Moreover, they can also be used to provide more versatile lighting, such as variable intensity, and LED tape can cover small areas.
Therefore, whilst upgrading traditional elevators to become smart elevators (or installing smart elevators into new builds) can be expensive, the savings on running costs can also be considerable. This combined with the time saving and additional safety and comfort that smart elevators provide means that it is not surprising how quickly they are being adopted, particularly in taller towers. Given that Dubai is not short of skyscrapers and modern buildings, residents can expect a continued rise in their adoption over the next 5 – 10 years.