Software titan Microsoft has collaborated with German engineering firm ThyssenKrupp to develop a new elevator system which is expected to save tens of thousands of years in waiting time each year by availing itself of latest Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

The MAX elevator employs Microsoft’s Azure Internet of Things platform to provide data-driven real-time predictive maintenance services, thus dramatically reducing repair time and raising availability levels.

The elevators dispatch data on their operating conditions in real time to Microsoft’s Azure cloud system, where sophisticated algorithms can then determine the remaining operating life of machine parts and components and predict maintenance problems and breakdowns prior to their actual occurrence.

The use of a cloud platform to collate real-time data means that a single maintenance and control hub can amass unprecedented volumes of detailed information on the operating condition of elevators located around the globe.

According to MAX’s developers, the system will enable ThyssenKrupp’s service technicians, who number more than 20,000 around the world, to better perform “real-time identification of repairs, component replacements and proactive system maintenance,” and cut down on elevator downtown periods by as much as a half.

Given that elevators are the world’s most widely utilised form of transportation, employed by as many as one billion people each day, and are globally out of service for as many as 216 centuries combined during the course of a single year due to service disruptions, any significant efficiency gains have the potential to save hundreds of millions of hours in aggregate waiting times.

The MAX system is the product of two years of collaboration between maintenance engineers from ThyssenKrupp and Microsoft data scientists, and could represent a major breakthrough in the incorporation of IoT solutions and modern elevator systems.

Should IoT solutions prove effective in improving the operation of the built environment systems, it could have a dramatic impact on the liveability and efficiency of cities, particularly giving the ongoing expansion of the world’s urban population.

Some 70 per cent of the world’s population is expected to reside in urban areas by the end of the century. This shift will inevitably result in dramatic changes to the nature of cities themselves, resulting in far greater densification and high-rise developments, and heightening the need for more efficient infrastructure and transit systems.

German engineers are already making use of similar big data systems to anticipate the maintenance and repair requirements of  rail vehicles operating in both the Eurozone and adjacent regions, thus raising efficiency and reducing downtime.