January 9, 2020 / 2:44 PM / 5 days ago

Lifting the elevator industry to a new era

By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion and nearly 70 percent of us will live in urban areas. Cities will have a key role to play in the many areas needed to sustain an increasingly populated planet. “Dense urban environments are a solution to many of the climate issues that we see because smart cities can make such a significant difference to sustainability,” said KONE President and CEO Henrik Ehrnrooth at the launch event for the company’s next generation KONE DX Class elevator products at London’s iconic Gherkin building in November.

Thanks to advances in technologies like 5G, AI and IOT, cities can become more liveable and more intelligent. And KONE, a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, is providing innovations that are set to make a positive difference to our urban future. 

The KONE DX Class elevators are an example of how digitalization can enhance not just the individual person’s experience of a building, but also the building’s ecological footprint. While elevators installed today are equipped to operate for around the next 25 years, the purpose of the building itself is likely to change in that period. The KONE DX Class elevators come with built-in connectivity and digital features that make them easily adaptable for a whole range of future needs. They can be remodelled and updated with new services as they become available, without the need to tear down existing interiors. Smart is also sustainable.

“We are changing our business profoundly towards a platform business. This means combining products and services over the lifetime of a building, which is very powerful,” said Tomio Pihkala, EVP of KONE’s New Equipment Business. “The new KONE DX Class will make elevator journeys more user-friendly, more enjoyable and more sustainable, meeting the changing needs of infrastructure, buildings and services for years to come.”

Creating the future

Speaking on a panel about the future of the built environment at the event, Suzanne Livingston, an AI consultant and technologist, shared her vision for what’s to come: “The future is that we will see sentient cities emerge. Buildings will be rich with intelligence.” Ehrnrooth describes this move towards conscious technology as a “watershed moment” for KONE, which operates in over 60 countries and moves more than a billion people every day. Pihkala agrees that now is the time to decide on the future: “The best way to predict the future is to create the future.”

And in the smart cities of tomorrow the future is vertical. People will need access to buildings topped by solar panels and roof gardens, encouraging sustainable energy and small-scale farming. They will also need access to underground soil-free agriculture. Hydroponic farms will grow produce under high efficiency LED lights, directly beneath homes and offices. As new ecosystems emerge around smarter cities and smarter buildings, there is a huge potential for the integration of building design with elevators, escalators and other smart building technologies in the most sustainable ways possible. For KONE, sustainability is a source of both innovation and competitive advantage.

Personalised public spaces

“In our research, we found that people around the world are used to having powerful, highly personalised devices, and now they want their environment to respond to their needs in the same way,” said Pihkala.

This increasing desire for personalised experiences during the course of our everyday lives was a driving force in the creation of the new KONE DX – or digital experience – class of elevators. Rapidly developing digital technologies and connectivity were the enablers: the new KONE DX class of elevators give architects, building owners and facility managers the opportunity to make their buildings more intuitive, ambient and connected for the benefit of those who live, work or visit them.

The roll out of digital technologies also opens the door to creating multisensory experiences that go far beyond physical materials. By using the latest lighting technology, sound, and visual media on screens it is possible to create powerful experiences in the space of an elevator ride.

KONE DX Class elevator

This is part of a wider trend in built environments, where the physical and the digital are merging.

As Alice Black, co-director of London’s Design Museum and one of the panellists at the KONE event, explains: “KONE are blending the physical experience into a digital one. This is what people are expecting today.”

Connecting more than floors

Whether it’s managing and monitoring city water supplies, global asset management, or connected drones used in farming and agriculture – connected, cloud-based services and the intelligence they bring are what make the seemingly impossible possible. For buildings and equipment, operating systems can be upgraded from afar and elevators repaired before detected faults result in call-outs. “The new KONE DX class is about connecting more than floors,” says Pihkala.

Built-in connectivity and other cutting-edge technologies make the new KONE DX Class elevators an extension of the lobby; it becomes easier than ever to add and connect new services and solutions to the elevators and for the various smart solutions in a building to work seamlessly with them. This is largely thanks to Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs. An API is a standardised way for two different digital systems to talk to each other. “We are using APIs all the time without even realising it,” notes Pihkala. “For example, if you plan a route on Google and check public transportation options, Google doesn’t have that information but pulls it from the transportation provider’s API. “

Panelists at the KONE DX Class launch event in London: Greg Williams (moderator), Suzanne Livingston, Simon Davis, Henrik Ehrnrooth, Alice Black, Christian Armstrong

The new KONE DX class is transforming the elevator into a digital platform that becomes an integral and integrated part of a smart building. It opens up a range of options for adding digital services to the elevator journey: KONE’s own, pre-installed applications, those installed elsewhere in the building, and those provided by external third parties. These can all be combined to create not just a unique experience, but a seamless and tailored experience for the entire building. This might mean anything from service robots riding elevators independently, to applications assisting visitors with disabilities to navigate the building smoothly and safely. Think of it like the KONE app store – the possibilities are unlimited, and in-line with what experts in the field are seeing as future trends. “We are going to see this incredible, natural, seamless integration of intelligence into our everyday life,” Suzanne Livingston told the audience at the Gherkin.

KONE’s approach to new technologies and partnerships with organisations like BlindSquare will do so much that is positive for people with visual impairments or other considerations that impact accessibility. As populations get to enjoy greater longevity, allowing people to remain independent for longer will become an increasingly important aspect of designing residential buildings, for example. This is innovation and enablement on a massive scale. But KONE’s CEO remains refreshingly down to earth. Ehrnrooth smiles as he tells the audience at the Gherkin: “At the very least we can make elevator music slightly different to what it’s been in the past,” referring to collaboration between KONE and Soundtrack Your Brand on offering customized elevator music.

Connectivity and the personalized technologies we already take for granted in our mobile devices are moving to the built environment in a big way. As KONE expands the role of the elevator from simply moving people up and down in buildings to acting as the central platform of smart buildings, it marks the beginning of a new era for industry.

The Reuters editorial and news staff had no role in the production of this content. It was created by Reuters Plus, part of the commercial advertising group. To work with Reuters Plus, contact us here.

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