Not long ago, seeing a stranger pressing an elevator button with a toothpick may have surprised you. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, this behavior feels “normal”.
The general public is adopting all kinds of workarounds to avoid touching surfaces, inhaling virus particles, and crowds, for example. Meanwhile, elevator manufacturers are developing permanent, technologically advanced solutions so passengers can leave their toothpicks at home.
In doing so, these companies are accelerating the arrival of the next generation of elevators: hands-free, clean, and “smart”.
Farewell, elevator buttons; hello, hands-free
Experts agree that there’s a small chance of spreading viruses through touching surfaces. Thankfully, touchless technology from elevator manufacturers completely removes the need to touch any buttons.
- Face recognition controls. As an example, Thyssenkrupp offers a face recognition camera that recognizes a passenger’s face and takes them to their destination. It’s easy to imagine such technology replacing the more traditional key fob system used in many business and residential buildings.
- No-touch command devices. West Coast Elevators and NZ Technology are prototyping such a device. Passengers simply hover a finger over the tablet to select their floor—zero contact required.
Shining the sun on elevators for cleaner air
While elevator passengers are wearing masks to protect their respiratory pathways, a growing number of elevator manufacturers are working with UV technology. UV light works to disrupt microbial material and has been used for decades in hospitals and for filtering drinking water.
Ashla Technologies, for example, installs systems in elevators that use infra-red to detect when an elevator is empty and uses UV rays to remove bacteria from the air and surfaces.
Some manufacturers have designed double-filter, or “two-phase” air purification or disinfection systems that combine UV lamps with other innovative air filter technology to eliminate over 99% of bacteria.
For advice on preparing to modernize your elevator network, see ‘How to prepare for a market of aging elevators‘.
“Smart” operating systems
“Smart” elevator operating systems use artificial intelligence to autonomously predict and manage elevator operations. They can help building managers reduce crowding, optimize elevator usage, and reduce the need for human maintenance intervention. Here are a few examples:
- Destination dispatch systems include one central command panel for multiple elevators. Once passengers select their floor on the panel, they mount the elevator only with passengers going to the same destination. This helps reduce the number of people in a car and travel time, and remove any in-car button touching.
- Elevator monitoring systems. These consist of a computer installed in the elevator cage for collecting elevator usage data and a monitor for viewing the data remotely. They give building managers insight into traffic data and trends so they can strategically optimize elevator usage. For example, operators may reduce crowding by staggering elevators or grouping together passengers going to the same floor. Some of these systems can also be used to predict maintenance issues, removing the need for a technician to visit the site to make a diagnosis.
The next-generation elevator come early
These technologies are just a taster of things to come. Industry insiders say that “digital upgrades are likely to become more common as elevators are built and modernized with social distancing in mind”.
If the “future of the elevator is touchless, highly automated, mobile and dedicated to moving people with optimal efficiency”, the novel coronavirus is simply a catalyst for the development of advanced elevator technologies that will soon be commonplace.
The pandemic is disrupting the field service industry on a scale never seen before. To manage the crisis and prepare for the future, read our article ‘3 ways to set up your field service business for post-pandemic success’.