New Technology Gives the Standard Lift an Entertaining Makeover

The oft used, but seldom enjoyed elevator ride will eventually be getting a digital upgrade in a shaft near you. No more will riders stare at a blank door, trying to avoid eye contact.

“We’re trying to move from selling equipment to selling services,” Tomio Pihkala, Kone’s executive vice president for new equipment business, said in a conversation with VentureBeat.

Kone, among the top providers of elevators and escalators globally, has 450,000 customers and around $9 billion in annual revenues. The company’s various installations transport 1 billion people each day. So much elevator traffic cries out for a digitally-driven, entertainment-providing screen that riders can interact with through voice command.

The article reveals a new vertical market set to adorn elevators worldwide with “virtual windows,” voice-activated controls, music-streaming and more.

Kone has taken a cue from the automobile industry, which has increasingly adopted platforms with connected services spanning diagnostics, entertainment, navigation and food delivery, among other services. Translated into the skyscraper realm, Kone is striving to make elevators a platform, allowing its clients to tailor services such as music, customize digital displays with local information or panoramic views via “virtual windows,” improve accessibility and enable voice commands.

For instance, a copy editor arriving at work in the morning may ask the elevator Alexa to start the coffee pot in the office, or order extra paper for the printer while riding up to his floor. If you don’t live in a skyscraper-dominated city, it might be difficult to imagine such a service on a short elevator trip. However, high-rise elevators often take longer than you might imagine to reach your destination, and many people conduct business from one floor to another daily.  Some must take multiple elevator rides in the same building. This innovation of Kone’s could help with productivity and work/time management.

Other API partners on board for the launch include Spotify-backed Soundtrack Your Brand, which has a self-stated mission to “kill bad background music” via a Spotify-like B2B music-streaming service. For anyone that loves existing elevator music, this probably spells bad news, but for everyone else this partnership will allow landlords and building owners to customize the mood inside their elevators. Imagine the possibilities.

The Kone DX Class elevators will be available in Europe first from December 2019, with other markets following in 2020.