Otis Elevator looking to IoT, digital transformation to provide a business lift

A large infusion in R&D and IT will be used to network field technicians and develop advanced capabilities for newly connected elevator cars

otis elevator
Otis Elevator/Thinkstock

Marcus Galafassi was named VP of Information Technology and CIO at Otis Elevator last October, joining the company at a critical time as the venerable firm is looking to make a large investment in technology to improve customer service and pave the way for new capabilities.  Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently talked to Galafassi about the big picture plans.

Marcus Galafassi, VP of Information Technology and CIO, Otis Elevator

Marcus Galafassi, VP of Information Technology and CIO, Otis Elevator

I understand Otis has some big digital transformation and IoT plans in the works.  Tell us about that.

I’ve been with United Technologies for 23 years, but when I had the opportunity in late October to come to Otis to lead IT I was excited because of the transformations that will be made possible by the biggest investment in engineering and information technology in the 160 years of Otis’ existence. 

In R&D we are looking at a 25%-30% increase in spending, and for the information technology to support the transformation we are investing a considerable amount over the next five years.  I cannot disclose the figures, but on a year-to-year basis I would say the investment in R&D and IT together is 40%-50% more.  It is a considerable amount of money that the leadership has dedicated to the transformation and digitalization strategy, to support the product evolution, to support the evolution of the customer experience. 

We have 31,000 technicians servicing two million elevators across the globe and these elevators are transporting around two billion people every single day.  So we have two main goals to address:  One, improve productivity by instrumenting our 31,000 technicians worldwide, and two, connect our elevators so we we can offer new capabilities to customers and so we can apply data science to improve service. 

Are any of your elevators connected today?

Yes.  Out of the two million elevators more than 300,000 are connected today with a technology called REM (Remote Elevator Monitoring).  We collect several pieces of data, including information about how far the cars have traveled and information about malfunctions … like a door failing to close or open all the way.  That signals an alarm, of course, but once you have collected this data you can apply data science and start to create a model to predict future failures and send a technician to fix a problem that isn’t even evident yet. We can also do that for elevator wire ropes, although that is more complicated to predict.  But what you want to do is collect data about the health of all the electronic and mechanical components so you can anticipate failure and service requirements.

What changes going forward?

We’re collaborating with AT&T to move to a global SIM card for wireless connectivity of our elevators, creating a machine-to-machine (M2M) network that replaces the connectivity we have today. All of these will be managed by AT&T’s portal, giving us full control of the elevators.

Also AT&T and Microsoft have several APIs that will facilitate the extraction of data so we can design more apps to take advantage of the information collected. That’s pretty much why we selected these two companies -- AT&T gives us network coverage on a global basis, Microsoft is our CRM partner and can help us build apps, and they partner with each other, too.

Do you start by upgrading the connected elevators to SIM cards, or use the tech to pull new machines into the network?

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