For quick and efficient horizontal travel, we use bikes, cars, and other vehicles. The same role is played by lifts or elevators that help us with vertical travelling. Although you might be using lifts every day, you would have seldom thought about its importance. Multi-storey buildings and skyscrapers are impossible to think without lifts. Today, smart cities have buildings with over a hundred floors and we couldn’t think to reach even the 10th floor by staircase.
Lifts have immensely evolved since the time they first arrived in the 19th century. Today, we call the most evolved ones as ‘smart lifts’. According to market analysis, the use of smart elevator systems will rapidly increase over the next decade. Globally, there are more than 14 million lifts that are used by about 1 billion people. The report has marked an increase of 16.2% compound annual growth rate from 2015 to 2025. It is seen that advancements in the semiconductor system and other elements of vertical transportation have been the key drivers in the expansion of smart lifts.
But what makes them smart? How will they ease the existence of skyscrapers? Let’s lift the curtain and explore the elevating trends!
Smart Lifts With Smart Features
Smart lifts are designed with intelligent abilities to serve beyond vertical transportation. They are equipped with security systems like biometrics and access control. Moreover, they move with faster, easier and enhanced energy-efficiency as opposed to the conventional ones.
Another key feature of smart lifts is to travel between floors using destination dispatch technology. Take for instance that a person is entering a smart elevator, and has entered the desired destination using the touch screen panel and are grouped with people who wish to go to the same floor. This technique makes sure that passengers have to travel through the minimum number of stops between intermediate floors by skipping stops at lower levels. So, now the elevator will follow the same and take the group to the destination as quickly as possible. Today this is the fastest way used in vertical transportation and is high in demand in tall buildings and commercial complexes.
As per the smart elevator market research in 2017, North America, especially Canada and the US have the highest number of smart lifts due to the increasing investment in infrastructure.
Furthermore, experts are working on lifts that can move not just vertically but horizontally as well. Watch some of those futuristic Hollywood movies to get a glimpse of such smart lifts.
Dario Trabucco, IUAV University of Venice and CTBUH Research Manager noted that the future smart lifts will be faster and bigger in size to accommodate passengers more comfortably. And perhaps, some of them shall travel the same as trains do in a single well.
As of now, Cloud predictive maintenance, connectivity, interactive touch panels, intuitive lift technologies, automated vehicle storage and retrieval technology are the key trends in 2019.
Trials To Develop The Lifts Of Future
ThyssenKrupp, a German engineering conglomerate, and Kone, a lift maker are two global leaders in elevator and escalator engineering industry. As they are working on new operation patterns and new elevator technology, Kone is performing trials in a mineshaft in Tytyri that is 50km west of Helsinki.
The trial site has a glowing blue lift that goes down to the dank cavern at level 350 as it is 350 metres below the top of an adjacent shaft. The lift indicates not just which floor it is heading for but also shows the speed at which it travels.
In the case of ThyssenKrupp’s facility, is a 246-metre high concrete edifice which stands above the medieval town of Rottweil. This facility has cable-free elevators that can travel both vertically and horizontally. These are generally made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic and are powered by linear motors that can propel the lift to move up or down and forward or backwards on magnetic rails. Cable-free lifts are energy-efficient and significantly curb the carbon footprint.
Hence, ThyssenKrupp which also specialises in manufacturing railway equipment is using high-speed railway technology to create ‘Multi’ – a system which will enable multiple cabins to travel up the same shaft, move horizontal and then come down through another shaft in a continuous loop.
The use of magnets and motors reduces the space that would otherwise be occupied by cables by up to 50%. As ThyssenKrupp says, Multi will completely transform the way skyscrapers are designed and bring in more opportunities for urban planners. With this new technology, architects can even think of designing buildings that are over 1 km tall – height will never be a limit.
Nevertheless, with Multi, some of them are also concerned about the emergency services which cannot be completely fulfilled while relying on the all-new technology. Hence, demand is to have two extra traditional elevator systems so that the upper floors can be accessible in case of emergency.
Apart from ThyssenKrupp, Kone is also focusing on the hardware and algorithms that are vital to prevent unnecessary stopping and vacant journeys. This reduces the waiting time and the number of shafts required for a particular building.
As per Khier Al-Kodmany at the Univerity of Illinois, passengers get annoyed after waiting for 28 seconds. Besides, Mitsubishi lifts in Shanghai Tower move at a speed of 45 miles per hour (20m/s). However, users value the speed but also have issues with the acceleration that provides it. Hence, lifts need to be designed for enhancing convenience.
Hope The Urban Planners Are Not Forgetting The Inclusiveness?
Whatever we discussed until now was for the abled people. While urban planners are aiming to introduce new technologies, inclusiveness is often being forgotten. As discussed in our previous blog, the senior citizens and disabled are deprived of some new technologies that should otherwise serve as a boon to them.
Priority focus should be on increasing space inside the elevator to accommodate people using wheelchairs. In fact, a mirror can provide better visibility and help wheelchair users come out of the elevators safely.
For disabled and elderly passengers seats equipped inside increase their comfort level. Additionally, lifts with accurate levelling and automatic doors that remain open for longer make their entry and exit easier and safer.
Inclusive elevator solutions provide the opportunity to improve accessibility for the disabled with impaired mobility as well. Simultaneously, it could also help users like mothers with baby carriages trying to return home with the grocery shopping.
Reliable, simple, user-friendly, easy-to-repair, and ready to operate in any condition like an emergency is all that an inclusive lift technology needs. So, it is highly important that urban planners and lift-makers design inclusive lift systems that can truly elevate vertical transportation in smart cities.