When prospective customers/employees first visit your office, their impression of your organisation will be partially shaped by their experience as they enter on the ground floor.

In many cases, those entering are confronted with a confusing environment in which they are unsure where to go.

Thanks to technology, however, this is changing. When visitors register, the visitor management system will automatically call them a lift and direct them to that lift which will take them to their allocated floor.

Such was one example provided by Basil Carlo-Stella, Director, ANZ, at multi-national elevators, escalation and automatic building doors provider KONE during the online Australia and New Zealand launch of the company’s new DX elevator class on November 19.

During the launch, Carlo-Stella highlighted several examples of how smart elevators are interacting other technology within buildings to improve user experience (see below).

In addition, a panel discussion talked about how technology is delivering more effective building management and better experiences for building users. This featured Dr Catriona Wallace, Founder & CEO Ethical AI Advisory; Ramesh Narayanan, National Manager, Asset Technology at Australian property group Mirvac; and Antony Ceravolo, Founder & CEO at digital visitor management system provider Sine.

KONE DX class elevators

According to Wallace, improvements are being driven by advances across several areas. Vast amounts of available data are enabling systems to be trained for automation or to make predictions.  Greater computational power means processing of algorithms is now a reality. Emerging technologies such as AI, AR/VR, IoT, 5G and cyber security are maturing – around $35 billion has been invested in artificial intelligence alone over the past twelve months. Digital transformation strategies are now a priority for many enterprises. Finally, COVID has forced significant innovation.

The effects can be seen in several areas. More data is enabling greater customisation and tailoring of offerings to individual requirements via automation. Predictive analytics are leading to better digital experiences. Cities and buildings are becoming smarter and more connected. Artificial intelligence, bots and automation are moving from the front office to the back office. Augmented reality is enabling digital information to be layered over physical experiences. There will be a greater focus on employee experience and new models of work focused on productivity. All this will (hopefully) happen in a secure environment where customer data privacy will be paramount.

Within buildings, Carlo-Stella says a breakthrough over the last twenty years has been the emergence of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) – software intermediaries which enable one or more different applications to talk to each other and with the cloud.

An example can be seen through Google Maps, which three years ago added public transport options to its offering when advising users of the best way to get to their destination.   To make this happen, the Google Maps software sends a request to the relevant public transport site. The data is then provided to Google Maps by the transport provider and presented to the user. Two separate applications (Google Maps and the public transport site) have communicated with each other.

In elevators, Carlo-Stella says KONE’s DX class has in-built connectivity using APIs and will be able to send data and receive commands as standard. This will provide an open platform upon which different applications can be built to suit requirements for various buildings.

This will enable several functions.

Start with the first-time office building visitor referred to earlier. As mentioned above, this will enable those who get to the visitor management system to be registered and validated at which time the system will call a lift that will be waiting with their floor already allocated.

This is possible as KONE have partnered with SINE. When the user registers with SINE’s visitor management system, that system interfaces with KONE’s elevator system via an API.

Another example can be seen through apartments. When apartment residents after returning home from work or shopping pass their electronic key in front in front of the access point, the system will be able to validate them as a resident, open the door, summon a lift and take them to their designated floor – all without users needing touch buttons or wait for a lift.

When users leave their apartment, Alexa will be able to turn off lights, shut down air-con and call a lift.

Other possibilities are numerous. In hospitals, integration with the lift system could enable automatic guided vehicles to transport linen from floor to floor. In hotels, similar integration could enable automated robots to perform in-room service deliveries on multiple floors – returning to their charging station when necessary. In facilities management, lift service and maintenance status will be able to be integrated with the landlord’s asset management system.

Bold colours in the new KONE DX range of elevators can create a confident look and feel. Other color arranagements can be used to evoke stimulation, calming/relaxation, style & timeless class or a connection with natural elements.

Speaking about digital transformation more broadly, Narayanan says the priority for Mirvac as a building owner is for buildings to be adaptable. When undertaking new builds, these must be able to be adapted over time to respond to tenant preferences in terms of data, connectivity and workplace experience as technology advances.

Much as smartphones enable users to plug in new applications as these are developed, building technology systems will need to deliver a platform from which new applications can be developed over time.

For this to happen, systems need to be open. A common problem within existing buildings, Narayanan says, occurs where parts of building run with proprietary software which does not connect with other parts of the building. Where this happens, there is no way to either connect different systems to deliver an integrated user experience or to extract data to deliver insight.

Ceravolo says the effect of technology on building management should not be underestimated.

He talks of a two-way trade whereby buildings and facilities management want to know more about people coming into the building whilst simultaneously people – armed with more options about working remotely – also want to know more about the buildings they occupy.

He says API has become more pertinent as growth in technologies involving contactless access, contactless destination control, thermal screening and density management has made it necessary for various devices to communicate with each other and with the cloud.

Ceravolo says growth in the volume of data available on mobile apps, tablets and other devices has opened up opportunities for building managers to move beyond data from objects and machines and to explore opportunities to better understand who comes into their building, how they travel within the building, what they wish to achieve whilst in the building and how long they intend to stay.

Anit-fingerprint features in the new KONE DX class of elevator.

Asked about the future of work, Wallace says a priority is to facilitate optimal productivity and mental wellbeing for those who do return.

Narayanan agrees, but adds that work of the future will be more customised compared with today. Rather than having everybody come in at nine to five, work of the future will respond to personal worker needs as well as to organisational requirements.

The challenge for organisations is to ensure that workers can achieve maximum productivity when in the office. This will take effort not only from organisations but also from workers, who will need to think ahead about when they will need to either collaborate or work without distraction and the space they will need for that to happen.

Ceravolo says the future the office is worth fighting for.

“I think the future of work (in the office) is worth fighting for,” he said.

“The experiences you get outside of being productive – seeing people in person, being able to have a joke and build teamwork and all of the things that we enjoy about working together – this is a huge thing that we’ve all got to fight for.

“People coming back into the office are definitely going to demand this two-way trade. They are going to want more flexibility. The future of work is up for debate.

“But it’s definitely worth fighting for to get people back into a collegiate environment to work together.”