Have you ever found yourself checking your watch or smart phone while waiting for an elevator? The group of individuals around you growing and growing, wondering with each new face if you’ll all make it on this elevator or be stuck waiting for another. This experience is quite common in our modern big-city landscape filled with commercial and residential skyscrapers.
In fact, Columbia University researchers found that New York City office workers wasted a combined total of 16.6 years waiting for elevators, all in the span of a single year.
Smart elevators are cutting the time spent waiting in half. They are faster and easier, making vertical travel more efficient.
How smart elevators work
First introduced in the late 1990s in New York City and Chicago high-rises, smart elevators offer passengers a more efficient ride. They feature a keypad stationed outside the elevator doors in which riders enter the number of their floor. From there, the keypad informs them of which elevator to board. It analyzes the requests of passengers and groups them together, so those going to similar floors all ride together. For example, those travelling to floors 15, 16 and 20 will be grouped together while those going to 25, 27 and 30 will be riding on a different elevator. According to the Schindler Elevator Company (which creates the Miconic 10 Smart Elevator), this cuts down on travel and wait times by approximately 50%.
Besides being faster, smart elevators save more energy than a conventional elevator. They stop at fewer floors by grouping riders together; they restrict entry if the combined weight of the riders is too much; they can even adjust the temperature accordingly. All these details mean they can conserve more energy, an important feature in our current climate. According to Time, buildings use up 40% of the world’s power, with elevators taking up to 10% of it. As such, finding ways to save energy is crucial.
Some smart elevators operate with key cards. Not only is it easy for the rider to simply tap their card and go (such as busy office workers or vacationing hotel guests), but also the elevator will eventually learn the patterns of those who use it. What time of day do riders enter the elevator? Do they require extra time to board? All this data, some of which can be determined even without key cards, can be compiled to ensure the elevator functions efficiently.
Elevator efficiency isn’t just good for the environment and for the riders; it also matters to the building owners. Smart elevators see less wear thanks to its smart functionality.
New technology like this isn’t without its challenges. First, it’s important to note this type of elevator would be best suited in towers that have over 10 floors to really maximize its value. While smart elevators may reduce daily costs (by as much as 40%), the initial cost to upgrade from a conventional elevator is quite steep: $60,000-$250,000 USD per elevator. As such, the taller the building, the more value to be gained by switching to a smart elevator.
Also, while this may be useful in an office building where riders grow accustomed to it, it may be more of a hindrance in a setting such as a hotel, where passengers may only board once a day for a few days. After review of smart elevators already placed in hundreds of New York City buildings, it showed that it took riders a bit longer initially to understand how they worked since they were so used to a simple up and down button. Plus, some riders expressed frustration at seeing other elevators come and go while still waiting on theirs to finally arrive, even if the elevator system was working more efficiently.
The way of the future
There was a period when people couldn’t imagine riding in an elevator without an operator. With every new change comes a period of initial discomfort as people become acclimated to the new ways. However, it’s clear that we’ll be seeing more smart elevators in the coming years, with the market forecasted to grow almost 13%. And while this market is growing steadily, we’re sure to see even more advances in the future (just look at the sideways elevator) that may just make the up and down buttons a thing of the past.
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