Elevator tech on the rise

July 1, 2007
The view from the top is wonderful, but getting there can be a real pain. For people who live or work in tall buildings, it's no fun when the elevator

The view from the top is wonderful, but getting there can be a real pain. For people who live or work in tall buildings, it's no fun when the elevator stops at 2, 4, 7, 9, and 10 on the way up to 20. But change is taking place along the Z axis with innovations like vertical transportation pods that plan their routes with speed in mind. Destination dispatch elevator systems, as they are called, take passengers directly where they want to go without stopping along the way.

Design impact

More than 3,700 Miconic 10 systems are installed worldwide in office buildings, hotels, and hospitals. Schindler's team is now working on designs to address security concerns and control elevator access throughout buildings while still providing optimum service.

Back story

The earliest elevators, basic hoist systems, date back to the Middle Ages. Yet what we think of as modern elevators came about in the 1800s and used steam or hydraulics to lift loads. A pivotal moment occurred in 1853, when Elisha Graves Otis demonstrated an elevator with a safety mechanism that could break a car's fall if the hoist ropes failed. Coupled with the dawn of electricity, innovation in elevator design skyrocketed.

Motor and control technology continued to evolve, and by 1903 gearless traction electric elevators allowed architects to design buildings with more than 100 floors. Microchip-based controls have added more safety and efficiency to today's elevators, yet most of these perpendicular powerhouses remain “dumb,” stopping at all sorts of floors and irritating riders. Not so with a new breed of smart elevators from Schindler Elevator Corp., Morristown, N.J.

Destination innovation

Schindler's Dr. Joris Schroder developed the idea of a destination dispatch elevator system in Switzerland about 10 years ago. The concept was to help alleviate elevator traffic congestion. By grouping people traveling to the same floor, a smart elevator reduces the number of intermediate stops — saving time and energy. Schroder was met with initial skepticism, but improvements in performance, efficiency, and user-friendliness have proven the system a success.

Instead of a conventional elevator where passengers push lobby call buttons to travel “up” or “down,” Schindler's Miconic 10 lets people key in a specific floor number before they even enter the elevator. Processing and car assignment occurs in a fraction of a second. Riders are sent to a car with other people going to the same floor, leading to a swift ride with few — if any — stops.

The core design challenge involved the elevator's “brain,” since the intelligence behind all destination-based systems is the dispatching algorithm. Engineers needed to come up with the best mathematical calculation to optimize dispatching performance, a task Schindler's design team says they do better than anyone else in the industry.

Schroder's design was the first system to resolve the two questions of elevator control: When an elevator is called, how many people are behind the call and where is each rider going?

Miconic 10's user interface and advanced algorithm answer those questions, providing real-time data for traffic planning to system controls. A logic program rationalizes traffic flow as it changes throughout the day, resulting in commute times 30% shorter than traditional elevators.

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