Elevator emergency phone requirements for cellular technology

With the evolution of cellular technology, the usage of SIM cards in elevator communications has become more popular. In this article, we review common concerns on the use of cellular to provide service to elevator emergency phones.

Phone line and lifts – the backstory

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. As time passed the telephone became the primary tool connecting people all over the globe. The need for a landline connection limited telephone applications until the end of the 20thcentury when consumers gained access to cellular or mobile phones.

The elevator industry, driven by regulatory requirements to provide emergency communication facilities for trapped passengers, has typically employed fixed landlines as the means of transmission for such elevator emergency phones. However, with the evolution of cellular technology, the case for employing mobile phones in elevator communications has become compelling. In this article, we address many common concerns regarding the use of cellular to provide service to elevator emergency phones.

What do GSM and GPRS have to do with elevator emergency phones?

In common with all telecommunications technologies, mobile has a host of acronyms. GSM is the Global System for Mobile Communications and typically refers to the standardised protocol for voice telephony. This technology expanded over time to include data communications commonly referred to as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GSM/GPRS, therefore, refers to a combined Voice/Data product with acronyms 2G, 3G and 4G referring to second, third and fourth generation standards. In general, people are familiar with the terms 2G, 3G, 4G etc., describing their mobile phones reception quality, and the merits of these standards are discussed in a separate article.

How does EN81-28 affect your choice of elevator emergency phones?

The standard that applies to remote alarms on passenger lifts in Europe is EN81-28. The “transmitter”, the piece of the communication system that sends voice and data to the reception equipment, is outside the scope of the standard, which means that any common transmission method, including landlines, cellular or VOIP is permissible. The EN81-28 assumes that the transmission network will not fail and makes certain provisions for cases where transmitters are integrated into the alarm system as is the case with GSM alarms. In summary, all GSM and GSM/GPRS systems offered by Avire Global are fully compliant with the relevant legislation.

Is mobile more expensive than a landline?

This is a commonly held misconception that stems from the days when voice calls were costly on cellular networks. Now, the reality is very different; voice call rates are the same as those made over a landline network. The use of data transmission to send key parts of the emergency transmissions and technical and monitoring information drastically reduce the need for voice transmission from GSM/GPRS devices comparable to conventional landlines.

The biggest savings, however, come from the monthly costs associated with using fixed landlines for elevator emergency phones. Monthly line rental on fixed business landlines varies by operator and country but are typically between $30 and $60 a month. By comparison, typical SIM packages for GSM/GPRS devices are 50 to 75 percent less. Over the lifespan of a typical device, the running costs of GSM/GPRS devices can be several hundred dollars lower than with landline.

Is the cellular network reliable enough for emergency communications?

The cellular network across Europe has seen significant infrastructure investment in the past two decades, and now offers some of the most robust and reliable communications infrastructure available. Coverage in urban areas is very good, and since elevator GSMs are typically placed at the top of the lift shaft, signal strength tends to be better than at ground level due to elevation and less building shadows. Furthermore, all cellular networks have redundancy built into them, with multiple cell towers covering individual location. This means that an individual cell tower out of action does not remove cell coverage. In some public emergency situations, the cellular network is the most reliable source of communications.

Are they easy to install?

One of the greatest advantages of using cellular for your elevator emergency phone is that the installer no longer requires the telecommunications company to provide landline installation.

Waiting for landline installation is often not available in new builds or sites under construction, and rarely routed close to the machine room. A cellular device can be installed by any lift engineer and activated immediately.

IoTs in Lifts

IoT stands for Internet of Things and is the network of physical devices with embedded electronics, sensors, and software, that are connected to the internet to allow the exchange of data. A GSM/GPRS emergency elevator phone system can be created as a digital communications platform, allowing data from other devices on the lift (such as lift controller, door sensors) etc., to be sent to the maintenance company or building owner and used for predictive or preventative maintenance applications. Data and configurations can also be sent back to lift devices to update things like lift display layouts, or for remote diagnosis of problems.