This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson of Tomlinson Business Research.
The announcement this month that the Swiss elevator manufacturer, Schindler was partnering with GE Digital, is further confirmation of the trend for building technology suppliers to establish IoT alliances with IT service and software companies. Schindler’s competitors – ThyssenKrupp, Kone and Otis – have all been undertaking similar partnerships with IBM and Microsoft.
According to the press release, GE’s Predix platform will enable Schindler’s personnel to proactively and predictively identify, analyze and resolve possible service issues before they happen, reducing and eliminating downtime and improving the experience for users and customers.
ThyssenKrupp Elevators, one of the top three companies in the sector with €7.2B revenues in 2015 and a 13% global share of the €51 billion market, was first off the block to deliver an IoT approach to the elevator service business. “We needed to be able to deploy quickly and globally with a technology that would leapfrog our competitors”, according to Scott Day EVP of product and business strategy.
In 2014, the company partnered with Microsoft and CGI, a UK IT service provider to create a connected, IoT asset monitoring system. CGI developed a solution that securely connects ThyssenKrupp’s “things” — the thousands of sensors and systems in its elevators 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 the Azure Intelligent Systems Service.
Its new cloud-connected smart elevator service, MAX was launched in North America in October 2015 and is currently being rolled out in Germany, with the company expecting to connect MAX in over 15,000 elevators by the end of 2017, as part of its larger plan to connect 180,000 elevators worldwide during the same period.
With MAX, data collected in real time is sent to Microsoft’s cloud platform, where an algorithm calculates the remaining lifetime of key systems and components in each elevator. ThyssenKrupp’s team of over 20,000 global service engineers and technicians can then inform building owners in advance when key systems or components will need to be repaired or replaced.
“We wanted to go beyond the industry standard of preventative maintenance to offer predictive and even preemptive maintenance, thereby guaranteeing a higher uptime percentage on our elevators.” said Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO, ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG
Earlier this year, Memoori highlighted the partnership between Finnish elevator manufacturer, Kone and IBM to harness the potential of digitalization and the Internet of Things (IoT). With this alliance, IBM continues to position itself at the forefront of IoT in smart buildings with a powerful set of partners providing infrastructure and services to the commercial and industrial buildings sector, including Siemens (building energy management) and ISS (facilities management services).
KONE will use IBM’s Watson IoT Cloud Platform to collect and store equipment data, build applications and develop new solutions. The platform will gather data from sensors and systems connected to elevators, escalators, doors and turnstiles in KONE’s maintenance base. With IBM’s advanced analytics engine, that information will be used to enable new cloud services for KONE’s customers. 44% of Kone’s €8.6B revenues derive from Asia Pacific and the company has achieved No. 1 position in China with 20% market share in new equipment and is joint leader in maintenance services.
Otis, part of United Technologies Corp., is the global market leader in the elevators and escalators sector with 18% share and $12 billion revenues. However, they have lagged behind in innovation and lost market share in China. Part of the problem was the integration of the Otis business into UTC Climate, Controls & Security and the focus on operational improvements and margin at the expense of innovation.
With the reinstatement of Otis as a separate business unit in September 2015, a recent commitment to spend $30M (25% increase) more on R&D in 2016 and higher investments on IT, the company is taking steps to remedy this situation. The head of Otis IT claimed in a recent article that R&D and IT expenditure on digital transformation is 40-50% more on a year-on-year basis. Otis is exploring opportunities with Microsoft Corp. and AT&T to accelerate development of digital solutions for elevators, to improve energy efficiency, make people more productive and to enhance the benefits of connectivity and remote monitoring.
Of course, digitization in the elevator sector is not only about improving service and supporting field employees. An equally important goal is to improve the customer experience in usage of elevators and escalators. Digital technology for improved interaction with lift occupants in the event of a failure or an emergency are a priority. Installing video screens that display news, weather or a company’s message of the day, phone apps that summon elevators remotely and keypads outside the elevator that intuitively select floors are other examples.
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