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

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We don’t have a precise roadmap yet, but we’ll probably start where we don’t have connectivity today.  We’re going to have a proof of concept (POC) in North America and move to Japan as well.  I don’t want to network them just to connect elevators. We need to have an additional portfolio opportunity. We need to prepare a roadmap along with our marketing strategy, sales strategy and of course engineering, but from a future products standpoint we are already designing elevators to be connected through M2M.  This product evolution is going to play out in the years going forward.

Can you give us a glimpse at the capabilities you expect to enable?

End-to-end connectivity makes many things possible.  In Europe, for example, we have already launched eView, which is an interactive, multi-display system in the elevator that can be used to broadcast information and also support interaction with elevator occupants.  If a person is trapped, we can use the system to communicate with them. This is a new product and obviously it relies on connectivity.

So if my car is stuck I hit a button and you can open up a video connection with me?

Exactly.  And we can also use the system to support marketing purposes in each car.  You can broadcast the weather, broadcast news, whatever.

Is that a potential new revenue stream for the building owner?  A way for them to charge advertisers that want to reach these captive audiences?

That’s revenue the building owner can collect.  That’s an extra for them.  But of course there is more.  Another capability we’re working on is eCall, which is a smartphone app that can be used to call an elevator.  So this, again, is interactive and requires connectivity to the elevator.

How do I benefit using an app to request an elevator?

You don’t need to go to the wall and press the button; you can use the app while you are walking.  That’s one thing.  But what you’re really looking for is the ability to predict.  The elevator is going to know you are going to floor five because you’re a subscriber and always go to the same floor.  So, in the future, it’s going to see you approach and know where you want to go without you pushing any button.  That’s the technology that’s going to evolve.

So it will use some form of near-field communications to see I’m approaching?

That’s the idea. It’s John coming and he goes to the fifth floor every day.  The phone is going to communicate to the elevator and drop you at the fifth floor.

eView was launched in late March and we are now ramping up for customers.  We’re pretty much targeting eView and eCall at the European market first because we’ve had some contract erosion there and this is one of the tools we are using to fight back. 

Ok, so that’s the connected elevator.  You said you’re also teaming with AT&T to connect your 31,000 technicians?  Are they connected in any fashion today?

Only 8,000 out of the 31,000 technicians have phones today, so it’s a massive change of management in the field.  We are issuing smartphones to all of them as part of our strategy.  The goal is to increase productivity and improve customer stickiness. 

By putting technology in their hands it will improve productivity by giving them fast access to spare parts lists, understand part numbers, and even help with visualization by taking a picture of a part that is broken and and then issuing it back over the supply chain to be sorted out.  There are a lot of things we will be able to do.

And then on the customer stickiness front, we will have apps to improve customer experience, like improving basic communications so they know where their technician is. We actually have 12 apps planned that have to be sorted out in the next year in terms of strategy.  All of them are related to productivity or customer experience.

So you start with connectivity by giving them a device and you build on that platform?

Correct. Our goal is to get everything ready by the end of next year.  It is a big undertaking because we have to build the apps and we have to have the right content management system in place.  We operate in more than 200 countries and territories, so we cannot just have an app in English. Technicians don’t speak English in Italy, France, Spain, etc.   And we have logistic centers in Europe, in North America, in Asia, and we have to have the right part numbers for the right parts in each location, so it’s complex. 

We call it the global Web from a technology standpoint, but there has to be local content management, there has to be support for the local language.  That is why it takes a while to implement this technology.

That sounds like a nightmare.  So you update it in one location, then you have to replicate that around the world?

Exactly.  It’s a global challenge.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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