The humble elevator, so integral to our everyday, came into existence almost 150 years ago. Yet in a world of fast changing technological implementations, elevator technology has actually changed relatively little in terms of reinventions. As Steven Gareth Foster, Managing Director of Schindler MENA, tells us, aspects like the Internet of Things are set to totally redefine interactivity between people and their working and living spaces.
Given the vast advances in building technology, would you say elevator technology has advanced at the same pace?
No, it hasn’t. If one looks at the automotive industry as a comparison, it has been much faster concerning mobility. However, I believe we’re catching up, and I am confident that the investments that Schindler is making and its partnerships in technology can be seen over the last few years. Furthermore, I imagine over the next 5 to 10 years we will see a whole different look into mobility within urban cities.
What are the most exciting areas of focus for Schindler in the elevator space?
Schindler has been a pioneer in new technologies for many years. We invented a destination control system over 20 years ago. We’re now on the 4th generation of destination control which is called myPORT. It’s a very personalized system of access and mobility through buildings. Our latest innovation is Schindler Ahead; an IoT solution which allows for predicted maintenance, real-time info for users and provides some convenience for further applications in the future. Schindler has been driving technology in the industry for 140 years, and that’s why it is the best elevator company in the world.
How has the IoT and massive connectivity influenced elevator design trends?
About two years ago decided to partner with General Electric and Huawei to build an IoT platform that will become embedded in every single piece of equipment that Schindler produces. And that’s the case now, so from January this year, every piece of equipment coming out of our factory has embedded technology that can be connected so that all our units eventually will be connected to the internet.
As a company, how does the company balance the impact of consumer connectivity and elevator technology?
Schindler understands that the business to the consumer market is huge that’s why we’ve innovated “Door Show.” Door Show is a media solution that connects with the elevator doors and provides communication points for advertisers to project onto elevator doors; previously a dead space. Also, within the lift itself, there’s an opportunity to have further messaging and connectivity, throughout applications you can even call your elevator; you can even request a taxi or an Uber through your phone in the lift system. So, it’s going to become more and more important that the lift system; the whole mobility route, is connected for consumers.
While developing the myPORT smartphone-based service for personal mobility, what were the security implications that you needed to address?
The most important is to identify that the person coming in the building has the rights to be in that building and has the rights to access specific floors, so it is imperative that security safeguards are built into the system. There are four levels of security before you even get through the turnstile in the building and yet you will have no idea that you’re being checked out. So, security is vital not only as you’re entering a building, but also when you’re exiting the building if there’s a fire or emergency we need to know who’s in the building which floor they accessed so that we make sure safely that everybody gets out.
myPORT is an entirely new way to move through the built environment. What would you say are the positive implications for new building design options?
Port is about transit management; efficient transit management. It is meant to make sure that the usable space for the building is maximized so that the traffic management is done effectively. What myPORT does is it personalizes this, so you use your mobile phone to access your office, home, car park, so it is a very personalized service for you. The bottom line is it still got to be an efficient way to move through buildings and technology is built around the most effective allocation of lifts to individuals, so the time they spend getting from A to B is minimized.
Would you foresee an immediate future where buildings no longer need to revolve around a traditional core of elevator banks?
As we’re in the business of selling elevators, I’d hope that there would be still a requirement for lifts. The elevator was the technological innovation that allowed tall buildings to come into existence; it is the central core around which the design of a building is formulated. I believe it’ll remain a crucial point. Whether it continues to move in the way it does, whether companies spend money on elevators or rent them out per usage, the usage may change, but fundamentally the lift system will remain in the tall buildings.
Are Schindler’s PORT Technology available for modernizations on existing buildings as well, or merely new installations?
Schindler’s PORT solutions are available for all buildings that seek to be modernized. Not only those buildings with Schindler equipment, but also those with other equipment. We have an overlay system where we can take control of the controller and the traffic and then we can modernize each lift one by one. It’s effective, it’s simple, and it works very well. We can turn it on over a weekend, so it’s not such laborious problem as having to take one lift out of service; we can take control of the traffic first whilst we modernize. It’s available on new installations, modernized installations, and available for the old type of elevators.