The latest research and development in commercial vertical transportation technology is counting on the well-known but less-quantified fact that people generally hate to wait—especially for the elevator. Among those hoping to make it easier to get around indoors is German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp, which last year drew attention for its debut of a cable-free elevator prototype that runs side to side (cue the Willy Wonka-isms) as well as up and down. Earlier this month it came to market with Accel, an ultra-fast moving walkway that can transport up to 7,300 individuals hourly through a space such as an airport concourse at speeds of up to 7.5 miles per hour. And at a press conference in New York this morning, the company made another move towards making mechanized indoor transportation more efficient. This time, however, instead of focusing on the way an elevator moves, it wants to improve how it runs.
Developed in collaboration with Microsoft and its Azure platform, Max is a remote, Cloud-based monitoring tool that uses a network of sensors to track performance—specifically aspects such as vibration and alignment—to determine when components will need repair or replacing. It also integrates with enterprise resource planning and customer-relationship management systems to suggest and carry out interventions to keep elevators in service longer.
Using data to drive predictive maintenance is key, particularly in urban areas where increasingly dense clusters of towers make these internal systems just as important as the networks of public and private transportation that connect cities. In their presentation Tuesday, ThyssenKrupp executives cited a growing market for elevator technology driven largely by this related construction, in which 12 million systems worldwide transport 1 billion people daily, and that values roughly 50 billion euros ($55 billion) today with the potential to grow to 61 billion euros ($67 billion) by 2020.
The company is rolling out Max to approximately 18,000 new and existing elevators in the U.S., Germany, and Spain in the next 18 months before expanding to parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. Microsoft will host the data, but ThyssenKrupp will own it.
ThyssenKrupp isn't alone in its quest to bring the modern elevator into the future. Finnish manufacturer Kone's carbon fiber UltraRope alternative to typical steel elevator cables is being installed in the Kingdom Tower, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as part of what the company says will be the tallest and fastest elevator system to date. Similarly, ThyssenKrupp, Kone, and others, like Schindler (as we recently explored), are tracking how people move through buildings with destination dispatch systems that organize foot traffic while monitoring that activity to garner trends that could drive the implementation of predictive mechanical behaviors. Just as data is driving the development of modern cities, so is it facilitating the rise of the modern elevator.