Our cover this month should intrigue all lovers of vintage equipment. As explained in The Space Surrounding the Elevator by Hanno van der Bijl, it is the only elevator in the Judd Foundation Building, built in 1870. The article is full of beautiful antique equipment that still does the job, including a basement winding-drum machine by A. B. See Electric Elevator Co. Though the elevator is rarely used now, it served as the private “office” of Donald Judd, the founder of the foundation. It is maintained by the second generation of the original maintenance company.
Our focus this month is on Communication Systems. Of course, the earliest systems for communication were face-to-face, then by telephone or on paper. According to The Wall Street Journal, in spite of being the era of smartphones, laptops and tablets, American offices still use 1.6 trillion pieces of paper a year. The demise of paper has been predicted for decades, but it seems to hang on in spite of everything — it’s cheap, lightweight and doesn’t need a Wi-Fi connection. In fact, in a recent meeting I attended, a discussion was held about print vs. digital magazines, with about 60% of attendees preferring print. However, since 2007, the use of paper has been slowly declining, mostly due to the younger generation coming into the business world. Companies are finding ever-faster ways to communicate with their employees, their product users and even directly with their equipment in the field.
Our historian Dr. Lee Gray writes an excellent history of communicating with passengers in an elevator in Elevator Telephony, starting with the 1899 Park Row building in New York. This was the tallest building in the city for nine years and had a telephone system that went to the machine room. Gray notes that the first mention of telephones in elevators in the ASME A17 code was in its 1937 edition.
Always On Call by Lee Freeland highlights Kings III Emergency Communications, a family-owned company out of Texas. Its elevator dispatch center coordinates help calls with more than 6,000 emergency-response locations across the U.S. Now, the company has a presence in Europe with SoloProtect in the U.K. In Monitoring of Communication Lines by John Pierce of Rath Microtech discusses the range of options available to customers as the industry moves from old analog phone lines to digital, cellular and Internet Protocol. All of those articles have to do with communicating with the passengers in the elevator by means within the system. Staying Connected by John Spindler of Zinwave explores the issue of passengers in elevators having access to their own mobile devices. He discusses several current solutions that work sporadically due to hoistways’ heavy construction and the height of some buildings. A new option of a remote wireless unit mounted on the car top has some requirements to overcome but could offer greatly superior service.
Next, we move to systems communicating with systems. An excellent Elevcon paper, New Infrastructure of Elevator Remote Monitoring System and Expansion of Services, by Shunji Takao, Ryouichi Sakai and Masaaki Yoshida reveals HERIOS by Hitachi. This system checks on the elevator system 24/7 and dispatches a maintenance engineer when an error occurs. In addition, it collects and studies data from the system to optimize operation. In an emergency, it can even remotely aid in the rescue of passengers. Another system has been patented in South Korea, and it works for inspectors. Smart Inspection System by Hong-gu Hur was developed by the Korea Elevator Safety Agency to work on mobile devices and improve the inspection process. The smart inspection system has cut travel time and expense and increased customer satisfaction.
Finally, we take communications a giant leap into the future with Eyes on the Future by Kaija Wilkinson. A partnership between Microsoft and thyssenkrupp unveiled their “mixed reality” device, HoloLens, for use in elevator applications in New York City at One World Trade Center. thyssenkrupp plans to support its 24,000 technicians with what it calls the “world’s first self-contained holographic computer” in coming months. Elevator systems consist of components from all over the world; using HoloLens, a technician can contact experts in any location to guide him or her hands-free through a problem-solving process.
We’ve gone from the earliest communication with an elevator (except for shouting up the hoistway — which still happens) to several systems that are a leap into the 21st century and beyond. Maybe the “paperless office” really is next.