When did elevators get so smart? Once they just went up and down, and now they alter their direction based on demand.
Today I was visiting the developers at another building and didn’t really think too strange when I first pressed the floor number. At the time it hadn’t occurred to me that I was choosing the floor as the first step of the process, on the outside of the lift rather than inside the lift.
Keypad on the outside of the lift, downstairs
It was only when I got inside and couldn’t find the usual floor buttons that I realised something was different. My more intelligent companion then noticed that the display above the door close/open symbols was displaying our chosen floor number.
Display inside the lift tells you which floor has been selected
What I didn’t realise was that the elevator was employing ‘intuitive technology’ to cut down on the amount of time spent waiting for the lift as well as the amount of unnecessary trips. I entered my desired destination and the computer sent the best fit lift to answer my call. Meanwhile, other lifts in the system were taking their most efficient journeys rather than the usual inefficient up/down pattern of older lifts. The lifts combine the most similar journey destinations to ensure energy and time is saved. And a lot of energy is saved, one article I have found says that up to 40 percent of elevator energy consumption is saved by using smart technology.
The buttons inside the lift
Another service the smart elevator is providing is better accessibility. You’ll notice the disabled button on the first image, at the bottom of the keypad. When a disabled passenger presses this button the computer sends the closest lift to the passenger and also ensures that the doors stay open for longer. Smart.
A brief google search also turned up an article by Jana Koehler on SpringerLink from 2001 entitled “From Theory to Practice: AI Planning for High Performance Elevator Control”. The abstract states:
Offering an individually tailored service to passengers while maintaining a high transportation capacity of an elevator group is an upcoming challenge in the elevator business, which cannot be met by software methods traditionally used in this industry. AI planning offers a novel solution to these control problems: (1) by synthesizing the optimal control for any situation occurring in a building based on fast search algorithms, (2) by implementing a domain model, which allows to easily add new features to the control software. By embedding the planner into a multi-agent system, real-time interleaved planning and execution is implemented and results in a highperforming, self-adaptive, and modular control software.
Not sure if this was where it all began (I don’t have an Athens login anymore, boo), but it’s an interesting concept none-the-less.
* Sorry, I can’t resist a pun, no matter how bad.