According to estimates from the World Health Organization, seven in 10 people will live in cities by 2050. Large modern cities depend on efficient and reliable elevator systems. Developments in the digital world will now see the “internet of things” further optimize their availability.

Globally, the growing number of high-rise buildings has escalated the demand for quick, comfortable, efficient, and secure vertical transportation systems. Moreover, global green infrastructure standards and statutory requirements are instrumental in compelling the deployment of smart elevators in new structures as well as current infrastructure.

The concept of the smart elevator has been around for years. These are elevators designed to transform the simple act of traveling between floors. Instead of pushing a button to go up or down, passengers first select the floor they want. Then they are directed to the elevator that will take them to their destination with the fewest number of stops.

Because smart elevators make fewer stops, they use less energy. Building owners like them because they mean fewer large crowds forming in lobbies waiting for the next car.

Smart elevator systems traditionally consist of new-age digital security system controls — biometrics, touch screen, destination dispatching and access control systems — which make them advanced.

Now an intelligent connected monitoring system, developed by ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG in collaboration with Microsoft and IT service provider CGI, is taking the smart elevator to the next level.

At New York’s brand-new 102-storey One World Trade Center — the tallest building in the Americas at 1,776 feet — elevators will carry an estimated 3.5 million people every year. Traveling at 23 miles an hour, the building’s elevators are the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, going from the bottom to the top in just 60 seconds on 198 miles of steel cable.

Speed is one thing, but to the 3.5 million passengers, reliability is far more critical.

The new smart solution securely connects the “things” — the thousands of sensors and systems that monitor everything from motor temperature to shaft alignment, cab speed and door functioning; the data they gather; and PCs and mobile devices used by its workforce of technicians — to the cloud with Microsoft’s Azure Intelligent Systems Service. This has established a completely new preventive maintenance system.

“We are systematically driving digitization and consolidating our leading position on the world market by investing in the cloud and the internet of things,” said Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG.

“We are digitizing our industrial products and turning big data into smart data. We wanted to go beyond the industry standard of preventative maintenance, to offer predictive and even pre-emptive maintenance, thereby guaranteeing a higher uptime percentage on our elevators.”

Instead of responding to problems, service engineers will have access to real-time data and take measures to prevent elevator breakdowns before they occur.

In addition, thanks to a two-way flow of data, technicians can remotely put an elevator into diagnostics mode, or send it to another floor. It all adds up to less travel time, better efficiency, and reduced costs.

The solution also seeks to take much of the guesswork out of repairs. The system contains an intelligent information loop: data from elevators is fed into dynamic predictive models, which continually updates datasets via seamless integration with the Intelligent Systems Service.

The manufacturer calls it the ‘”irtual troubleshooter.” When the elevator reports that it has a problem, it sends out an error code and the three or four most probable causes of that error code. In effect, the field technician is being coached by this expert citizen.

With up to 400 error codes possible on any given elevator, “coaching” can significantly sharpen efficiency in the field.

PredictiveMaintenance2With the project still currently under development, there is no cost saving data available, but as new datasets are fed into the predictive models, significantly lower maintenance costs and increased reliability and uptime are expected.

In addition, the system is not simply for new buildings.

“It can easily be added to existing buildings and all kinds of elevators,” explained Michael Ridder, head of media relations at ThyssenKrupp.

The interoperability of Microsoft’s technologies means the new service can be connected to multiple elevator makes and models, making it possible to extend its maintenance business to create new revenue opportunities.

This new technology, which has been coined Industry 4.0, has even wider application possibilities. For example, it could be used to connect mechanical-electronic components with IT and software elements to form cyberphysical systems through seamless engineering and the cross-business process integration of value chains.

According to a report titled Global Smart Elevator Market – Size, Industry Analysis, Trends, Opportunities, Growth and Forecast, 2013 – 2020, the global smart elevator market will reach $23.16 billion by 2020.