The lift and the escalator are precious allies of our mobility. These electromechanical devices, which we use every day, in case of malfunction can deeply affect the usability of public and private buildings, stations, airports and hospitals, preventing us from reaching a different altitude level with little effort.
As a frequent traveler with a heavy trolley in tow, we often give an opinion of efficiency to the structures we visit based on the operation (or lack thereof) of the lift and as designers we know well what the effort involved in maintaining a vertical interface exposed many times to bad weather, temperature changes, not always correct use by users and subject to mechanical, electrical and electronic wear of the components. Schindler Swiss multinational present in more than 140 countries in the world, with over 9.61 billion Euros of global turnover and among the leaders in Italy with around 1,400 employees having at heart the development of their business must aim increasingly at achieving the maximum objective uptime that we mentioned at the beginning and today, after a analysis process, collection of experiences and tests, can do it thanks to the integration of different high-level technologies, both in the field of sensor integration and in that of data management and transmission and processing of the same with artificial intelligence systems to be combined with the control directed by specialized technicians.
An elevator, whether based on an electric or hydraulic system, as mentioned a complex system in which the conditions of the environment, the frequency of use and possible failures come into play which in many cases are foreseeable or monitored during their evolution. In addition, the lifts regulation of 2017, which changes the dpr30 April 1999, n. 162, in implementation of Directive 2014/33 / EU imposes stringent safety standards with regard to elevators and their operation.
What is Schindler doing about it and how is he marrying IOT and AI in maintenance? He told us in an interview Matteo Bonardello, Head of Sales & Marketing Services of Schindler Italy.
Let's start from the hardware part: what is Schindler Ahead from the point of view of the components on the device? What are the sensors and communication systems you use?
The IOT system designed by Schindler was born from the collaboration with Huawei and General Electric with their respective skills.
Huawei supplies the hardware, a second generation gateway to receive data from the sensors of the escalator and elevator control panel and transfer it to the cloud where General Electric intervenes with an AI system called Predix. Thanks to the interpretation of algorithms that comes from Schindler's knowledge (from his vast amount of installed systems) it is possible to predict the breaking or critical behavior of the lift components.
good to underline that GE through Predix provides tortificial thentelligence e machine Learning, but which without the knowledge of a lift operator such as Schindler, with thousands of connected plants in the world, could neither interpret nor manage data of actual utility.
What parameters do you monitor?
We monitor, for example, the optimal opening and closing of the doors, the functioning of the car push-button panels which may have a damaged light, the correct leveling of the lift on the floor, as well as an excess of temperature that can lead to the block of the system.
These are just some of the approximately twenty vital lift parameters that are monitored over time.
The parameters to be observed, asometimes acquired data, how is it transmitted and managed?
As for connectivity, we rely on standard 3G and 4G networks. The communication systems are on board the lift, in the upper part of the compartment and via an antenna they communicate the data to our operations center. Two great communication channels start from here: on the one hand we have a proprietary platform called Remote monitoring platform and on the other hand we send the data to General Electric.
In the first channel, through a TOC (Technical Operation Center), technical engineers observe the lift's operating parameters daily (several thousand in Italy), monitoring dozens of indicators (yellow, green and red dots – for a traffic light representation) and guide the proactive action.
The goal is not to intervene after the fault, but to prevent it by anticipating the corrective action.
The increase in the presence of sensors actually leads to help in the control activity and at the same time a complication. How has the relationship between incoming data and their processing evolved over time?
By law, some sensors were already present in the past: in particular the temperature sensor, which prevents the operation of the system if it exceeds 40. At one time, however, the elevator went into lockout and nobody knew why: the technician had to go out with a cost charged to the customer not knowing what the fault depended on.
Among the innovations of Schindler Ahead c the possibility to remotely monitor the cause of the stoppage, avoiding to send a technician on site if not strictly necessary.
In general, as regards the sensors, however, a distinction must be made between the new devices that leave the factory and those already installed.
In Italy we have a fleet of lifts installed of about one million units: we are the first in Europe, second only to China.
There is a fundamental difference that distinguishes the installed one: while from 1st January 2018 all Schindler products already have the sensors in the control panel, in other words the hardware on board, as regards the systems installed before that date, the sensors not present must be recreated retrospectively in the framework of maneuver natively.
Thus, in the case of existing plants, the use case (about fifteen), on the basis of which we position sensors on the machine in the key points to collect data and provide prompt assistance service similar to the advanced one mentioned above.
Is there an intermediate level of service regarding hospitals and facility management? All the management entrusted to your Call Center or is there an intermediate stage of knowledge of the state of the systems directly accessible to those who maintain the entire building or structure?
In fact, we arrived at the time of the IOT Go-to-market with a three-tiered offer.
The first level named Connectivity: the lift connected as required by law (from 1999 onwards) to the First Assistance Call Center which is activated in the event of plant shutdown with people trapped in the cabin.
The second level named Core and an intermediate remote monitoring service that has various elements within it: analysis software, proactive support from the Technical Operative Center (technical engineers who can remotely perform analysis and control on the failure of lights, pushbuttons, etc.). This is accompanied by the activity of the Call Center for on-site interventions.
complete the third level which in addition to connectivity and prompt intervention offers a priority response service from the Call Center and a technical intervention within two hours, beyond which the service is not billed.
In the packages Core is complete including Ahead ActionBoard, an advanced dashboard accessible from any PC or smartphone that reflects the status of the system in real time and that includes a 3D view of the device with sensors in the nerve points and a traffic light logic (red, yellow and green) of immediate understanding. In this way, with an operation of total transparency towards him, the Customer can know at a glance the health status of his own lift or escalator.
The Facility Managers who manage multiple systems simultaneously have a great benefit from the use of the Ahead ActionBoard: they can, for example, view the information of 100 systems simultaneously and easily on their smartphone; in the opening screen they can have an overview and quickly analyze the general or particular status of the individual elevators and escalators.
At the management software level, how are the systems integrated?
We work worldwide on SAP based, with CRM on Call Center, while the fullfilment phase runs on iOS and integrated with SAP. As for the interface with the customer: Ahead ActionBoard a native system in its own right, but a clear need to collect in some cases the data of the elevators and escalators in a BMS. A solution of this type has been developed for large Key Account Customers. Through Open API we can extract the data and bring it to the Customer's BMS.
Going back to the data that flows to your TOC and those that come to GE, how is security managed? And how do they infer on the single plant starting from a global vision? How does the contribution of General Electric big data and analytics intersect with the single intervention?
In the TOC, the team focuses more on the single plant: information arrives on the platform and experts guide the recovery action.
The overall vision exists thanks to GE with a certain level of accuracy that is refined over time: the data arrive on the technician's smartphone to suggest the intervention to be carried out.
This operation is already active and will increase as the number of monitored plants grows.
The greatest benefits will come with thousands of connected plants.
This is what happens today: the Schindler technician performs maintenance activities thanks to an iPhone with efficient programming of interventions and a recalculation of operations in case of emergencies for a task execution in the shortest possible time.
If there is a signal from the AI that a certain component could break, the same is highlighted on the technician's iPhone with a different color depending on the severity of the symptoms: for example, if it is a minor symptom, it will appear green and will be resolved on the occasion of the first maintenance.
So you can operate one guided critical resolution. Thank you The enormous effort made at the company level in transferring the technical knowledge linked to thousands of breakdown cases, by clicking on the highlighted component on your smartphone, the maintenance technician directly finds both the possible causes of the problem and the guide to its resolution.
What happens with the old systems you manage, produced by others or with technologies that are now out of date, but difficult to replace for architectural or structural reasons .. do we think of the lifts installed in the old pre-war buildings?
We worked in anticipation of a generational change which is taking place in all the companies in the world: we must retain the know-how of the technical colleagues with more experience in IT mode to transfer it to the new generations with the acquisition of thousands of cases of breakage or downtime.
Until the 80s and 90s, each Italian company had its own range of plants under maintenance. Then with the advent of the large market operators and the consolidation of the companies, mixed portfolios were created with the need for technical staff capable of operating on all types of systems, even of different brands.
Given the significant presence in the existing park of systems with old technology (also hydraulic), Schindler has decided to develop a Modular Sensor Kit for retrofitting lifts from other manufacturers and old lifts.
At the end of our conversation with Schindler, it is clear that the solution to which the Company has arrived is the point of arrival of a long process that can further mature with the consolidation of further data. The challenge from here on will bring uptime the time in which the implant available from a typical value of 98.5% to 99.99%.
Thanks to the contribution of the experience of the technicians and the help of advanced AI solutions, this goal no longer seems so far today.