The Need to Innovate
Melbourne-based Pixel Technologies looks to grow.
The centuries-old proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” can be applied to virtually every technological breakthrough; when a need is identified, clever people rise to the challenge, finding better, faster or easier ways of meeting the need. Innovation is what drives Pixel Technologies, an Australia-based maker of communication, monitoring and other devices that make elevators safer and easier to use and maintain, and more cost effective to operate. With its ONIX and OPAL touchscreen and display technology, and its groundbreaking emFONE emergency-phone systems, Pixel is poised to be a leader in the field of elevator technology.
Pixel Technologies was launched in 1994 under the name Design-Com with the same goal it pursues today, nearly a quarter-century later: providing “world-class communication solutions” to the elevator industry. To that end, Pixel creates products for clients large and small, and systems customized from the design phase all the way through production.
From its distinctive, “green” home office building in Carlton, Melbourne, the company runs a production facility and satellite offices, in Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore. Company agents are stationed across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. to service clients. From its earliest days, Pixel has assembled everything in-house, seeing local control as key to maintaining quality. At first, production was very labor intensive, but today, Pixel operates a modern, automated 2,677-m2 manufacturing facility in Melbourne.
Touchscreens, visual displays and two-way video are among the new technologies that Pixel customers are flocking to. They have been since the company introduced the first full-color lift display in 2002. The company’s OPAL Plus and OPAL Touch screens are being adapted to multiple uses. For example, touchscreens can eliminate the traditional car operating panel and its raised, mechanical buttons. This is especially advantageous in a hospital setting: instead of having hard-to-clean buttons that can harbor dangerous microbes or viruses, the smooth glass screen can be easily wiped with disinfectants, eliminating a potential source of infection.
Two-way video, enabled through the visual display and integrated cameras, allows a passenger in an emergency situation to speak “face-to-face” with the responder on the other end of the call, a benefit shown to help reduce stress and panic. This system allows for the interaction to be recorded, enabling performance assessments and verification of events should a dispute arise. In a hospital, the two-way video system could be a lifesaver if an elevator entrapment of a distressed patient occurs. In this case, a doctor can monitor the situation and guide accompanying medical personnel through necessary procedures.
The visual displays also provide information and advertising, which offer building owners a new revenue stream. To that end, Pixel is working with oOH! Media, a provider of customized content for the displays.
The company’s bread-and-butter product, emFONE (a trademark for the company’s “emergency phone”), was Pixel’s first product, born of the realization that elevator passengers using the emergency phone may not be able to give vital information to the person on the other end of the line. Perhaps they were having a severe medical issue, were not fluent in the local language or were unfamiliar with the building’s location. emFONE removed these burdens by automatically (through a recorded message) telling the responder the location of the lift from which the phone button was pressed. The passenger then was given the opportunity to provide further details. In those days, before caller ID and location technologies (such as global positioning systems) became commonplace, the emFONE was a useful product.
The system has continued to evolve and maintain its leading reputation, and its popularity proves this. emFONE continues to be among Pixel’s bestsellers, and company representatives estimate it is in use in at least 80% of the elevators in Australia and New Zealand. emFONE is also a big seller in the U.K. and Singapore, and Pixel is making inroads into Asia through its sales and support office in the latter. The company is increasing its business in Kuala Lumpur, and, with a current project in Qatar, is growing in the Middle East. There also are deals in play in the U.S. At least 40 percent of Pixel’s business comes from overseas, the company estimates. The company is looking to expand even more, and is open to new international distributors.
The company has popular offerings in some of the latest technology to keep elevators connected, such as remote monitoring, wireless gateways and the Internet. Remote monitoring is a growing trend in the industry, and because of its potential to save money for building owners and maintenance contractors alike, it’s not hard to see why. Pixel’s LMS (Lift Monitoring System), which allows for constant monitoring of connected elevators and escalators, is on the cutting edge of this boom. And, Pixel is moving heavily into wireless gateway, Internet and networking technologies. It is a push away from the old technology of phone lines, where elevators can now talk “to the cloud.”
Pixel offers cutting-edge communication, monitoring and accessibility solutions. Some of the company’s leading products follow.
ONIX and OPAL — Display Screens
Pixel’s ONIX and OPAL Embedded Lift Displays provide colorful video interfaces that can be used for various purposes. In addition to the standard “Position Indicator” function, elevators equipped with these systems use high-quality screens that can be used to provide news, weather, advertising and event information. Content can be configured and updated through the building network or directly via USB port, or automatically updated at preset times. OPAL Touch adds a touchscreen that can replace the standard mechanical push buttons. Multilingual and voice feedback (for the visually impaired) functions are available. The OPAL Lobby Display is a customizable 55-in. panel that can provide building information and more.
emFONE® Emergency Telephones
The emFONE line of emergency telephones provides automated features that quickly connect to service personnel during an elevator emergency. They automatically dial and play a recorded message to the phone number programmed into the system. If the first number does not answer, a second or third programmed number will be contacted. The recorded message identifies the calling location, which can be replayed by the service technician. The prerecorded message means that people who have difficulty communicating because of disability or a language barrier can still receive help during an elevator emergency.
Pixel has also created an elevator wireless gateway, as well as a wireless intercom system that allows communication between the machine room, car top and pit. System hardware includes a machine-room wiring terminator module, master intercom unit in the machine room, car-top and pit intercoms, and a car station. The network is brought together with the EM-4GE/IS dual-SIM wireless communication gateway with intercom controller, which can be installed in several locations. The system is plug-and-play-ready with a local area network cable.
The PI (Lift Position Indicator) series is a range of car and landing position/direction displays in several sizes. All are enabled with elevator messages and customizable arrows, colors and “auto-sleep” mode.
Pixel offers vandal-resistant stainless-steel elevator buttons with built-in sounds and raised Braille markings for the visually impaired. They have variable color illumination, quick-connect capability and compact design.
Elevator Monitoring Products
Pixel has a monitoring system, RPMS (Remote Phone Monitoring System), which offers two advantages: safety and reduced cost. RPMS automatically tests all connected phones, eliminating the high cost of periodic manual testing. Faults are immediately identified, and email alerts facilitate quick response by service personnel.
Pixel has also created a monitoring system that provides system programming and status reporting for wireless communication gateways. This is called Pixel Monitoring, with which users can monitor uptime/downtime and faults/alarm calls, and locate devices and check status.
The Pixel LMS allows remote, real-time monitoring of elevator and escalator performance (ELEVATOR WORLD, December 2017). Using specialized hardware, LMS allows building managers or other designated personnel to maintain a 24/7 status watch on building-transportation equipment, alerting and logging faults, availability, position and direction. Monitoring can be done through an Ethernet or Internet connection.
Pixel has worked on several high-profile projects around the world in recent years. Among them:
- Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai: emFONEs, completed in 2015
- International Towers, Sydney: emFONE, emLIGHT emergency lighting and OPAL Plus lift displays, completed in 2016
- Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia: emFONE, emLIGHT, OPAL Plus, OPAL Touch and PIs, completed in 2013
- Shangri-La Hotel, Doha, Qatar: OPAL Plus and OPAL Touch, completed in 2015
- Crown Promenade Hotel, Melbourne: OPAL Plus and OPAL Touch, completed in 2015
- Marina Bay Sands, Singapore: OPAL Plus and emFONE, completed in 2016
- Freshwater Place, Melbourne: OPAL Plus and OPAL Touch, completed in 2016
- Riverside Centre, Brisbane, Australia: OPAL Touch and large-scale Touch Tenant Directory screens with lift remote-call-giving integrations, completed in 2016