Use the IoT to cut costs from elevator operations

The internet of things enables predictive and more efficient maintenance while maximizing elevator uptime

Germany manufacturer Thyssenkrupp produces many things–steel, ships, trains and, likely familiar to anyone in the commercial real estate world, elevators. Conglomerate subsidiary Thyssenkrupp Elevator operates in 150 countries and employs 50,000 people at 1,000 locations around the world.

 

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According to the company, each day some 12 million elevators make 7 billion trips and move around 1 billion people in office buildings, hotels, transportation hubs, residential developments, industrial facilities and all other manner of commercial real estate. Given the fundamental role of elevators in making a building useful, property managers can expect to hear from tenants when elevators are out of service, something Thyssenkrupp estimates takes up 190 million hours each year.

So what’s the solution? Thyssenkrupp sees it in the internet of things, which allows formerly static objects to collect and transmit data. In the case of elevators this includes information related to door openings and closings, trips, power-ups, calls for cars, error codes and operational health indicators from elevator systems. This data is then tramissited into a cloud services platform–Microsoft’s IoT platform Azure in the case of Thyssenkrupp–where it’s analyzed for patterns related to regular operation and component lifecycle. From there, the company’s MAX platform can trigger predictive alarms allowing technicians to fix problems before an elevator goes out of service. Property managers can access usage data to plan service at times when elevators are at the lowest usage level. To learn more about the MAX platform, click here.

In a video interview, Thyssenkrupp North America CEO Patrick Bass said data from connected elevators is used “to derive intelligence that will result in you changing behaviors. In the elevator industry, because it’s a service-based industry, the business case is quite straightforward: If you can go in and eliminate one unscheduled visit per elevator per year, that’s a significant dollar

Return.” Bass said that, in the U.S., a single technician visit to an elevator costs $300. “Imagine that across 1 million units. It adds up to a significant value. The customer value was quite straightforward–this is going to provide an improvement in uptime.”

He continued: “You think about the disruption in a building…the costs to not only the building owner, but the costs to those companies leasing in that space, from unproductive time. When we can improve that–that basically increases traffic flow, it increases effectivity and efficiency for office space around the globe–it’s very powerful.”

Beyond elevator providers like Thyssenkrupp, the value of providing this type of service to building owners has caught the attention of other stakeholders in the IoT ecosystem. For example, Spanish communications service provider Telefonica provides an end-to-end solution that, like Thyssenkrupp’s MAX offering, collects elevator data and uses Telefonica’s network to transmit the data to a cloud-based analytics platform. From there, the data is sent onto maintenance technicians either on- or off-premise.

Like Thyssenkrupp’s partnership with Microsoft, Finnish engineering services firm KONE, also a leading global manufacturer of elevators and escalators, is using IBM’s IoT platform, which uses IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence. KONE plans to connect its installed base of one million elevators, escalators and building doors over time. “We operate in a connected world,” KONE Corporation CEO Henrik Ehmrooth said. “New solutions like improved remote diagnostics and predictability means we will deliver better services for our customer and great experiences for the people who use our equipment.”

Elevators are just one application area IoT can support in building operations. To learn more about this subject, check our recent piece “How the Internet of Things brings smart buildings alive.”

 

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