Smart Technology for elevators – How could it help with social distancing?

Social distancing has potentially become the most used term of 2020 so far, and with the re-opening of buildings and the need to re-adjust to a ‘new normal’ it is a vital behavior that will be a part of daily life for quite a while to come. Elevators have long been equipped with an overload alarm to ensure that if the maximum weight limit is exceeded the elevator will not move. However, we have now moved into a new time where an overloaded elevator is not only defined by a weight limit, but also the maximum number of people allowed within the elevator car whilst still maintaining social distancing.

Elevators are a key area of risk due to the enclosed space, and understanding how many passengers are in a lift at any one time, and whether passengers are following social distancing guidelines, will become a crucial piece of data to analyse the effectiveness of social distancing policies. Occupancy sensing and people counting in the elevator car, long considered “nice to haves” or even gimmicks in the elevator industry, will become increasingly important to help support buildings in their re-opening safely.

Elevators will be put under increased pressure

Elevators will be put under increased activity with the need to reduce the number of passengers in the elevator at any one time. Even with the number of people in a building reduced there will be an increase in the number of journeys carried out by the elevators.

In some cases, an elevator rated to carry 20 passengers will only be able to carry 2 passengers whilst following social distancing guidelines. Staggered start and finish times in office blocks will also have an impact on elevator usage, as well as the reduced capacity for carrying passengers.

This increase in the number of journeys could mean more frequent maintenance visits to account for increased wear. Re-opening buildings is likely to be stressful enough without elevator breakdowns causing even greater queues and crowded lobbies.

Even simple data such as the number of times the doors open and close can give valuable insight into how much additional wear an elevator is experiencing and this will help elevator maintenance companies to determine if your elevators need greater attention during this period.

How can Avire help?

Avire is developing people counting and other smart technologies to improve the safety of passengers in existing elevators and the visibility of elevator data.

Avire will soon be launching the ESD (Elevator Social Distancer) to help buildings remind passengers of the need to social distance. Stationing additional staff in all elevator lobbies would be inefficient and increases the risk to those staff. The ESD will encourage building users, elevator passengers specifically, to maintain social distancing. Avire’s solution will monitor how many people are in the elevator cabin and if the number of passengers exceeds the pre-programmed “social distancing limit” an audible warning will play, and the elevator doors will be held open, delaying the elevator’s departure. This will allow Facilities Managers to demonstrate that they are actively alerting passengers to social distancing requirement without placing staff at additional risk.

Other considerations to improve people flow in buildings whilst enforcing social distancing

  • When planning traffic flow through the building (depending on the height of the building) consider using the elevators as the “up route” and the stairs as the “down route”.
  • If you have more than one elevator, consider splitting the elevators into “up” and “down”.
  • As cleaning regimes are increased be careful that equipment in the elevator cabin is not being damaged by cleaning products. Consider using removable wipe clean button covers rather than applying cleaning products directly to buttons. Small gaps around the buttons allows for moisture to get through and can short circuit the electrics which is dangerous and will put an elevator out of action.

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