Tools of tomorrow

Moving one billion people a day is a big job. It’s one that KONE escalators and elevators take on tirelessly – with the help of our technicians, who ensure the equipment runs smoothly and safely. Thanks to artificial intelligence, their job is about to get easier.

March 15, 2018

Countries in the Nordics and elsewhere with severe winters often witness a peculiar problem: the sand and grit that’s poured onto icy roads to help people walk safely can get stuck in shoe soles and cause problems for escalators. KONE service technicians Jyrki Simola and Jaakko Almi have seen this first hand in the Helsinki metropolitan area in Finland.

“One of our most common maintenance tasks in the winter is to remove the stones from the escalator. They get into everything,” explains Simola.

Different locations and weather conditions set unique demands on escalators. Something as random as a stone falling from a shoe sole could potentially throw the people flow in a building off-kilter for hours. Being able to tap into accurate and timely information on the operation of a particular escalator is invaluable in helping diagnose possible problems.

Data to the rescue

This is where KONE 24/7 Connected Services comes in. It utilizes sensors to collect data from escalators and feeds this to IBM’s Watson Internet of Things (IoT) artificial intelligence platform, which analyzes the data and helps customers understand how well their equipment is doing. What’s more, it can analyze this data and predict when a fault might occur, allowing for maintenance before problems arise.

“It will help a lot when we know something more than just that there is a malfunction even before we get to the site,” says Almi. This, he says, will help KONE’s service technicians bring the right tools and spare parts to do their jobs more quickly. “That way we don’t need to go to the site, figure out what’s the issue, and head back to get the right gear.”

Using KONE 24/7 Connected Services, equipment operators and technicians will be able to plug into the machine directly and get summaries and statistics of its operation. They will know their equipment inside out, with the escalator sending updates to their smart devices.

Talk to me

Needless to say, this is an enormously important tool for escalator technicians like Almi and Simola. They have been at the forefront whenever KONE has introduced new technology to support its technicians, right from the days of the pager to today’s smartphones and smart devices, which tell them everything they need to know in one go.

“In the earlier days, we had to drive around to find a payphone and call the center a couple of times a day to ask if there was a job somewhere. Now our work has become much easier thanks to all the information coming to our cellphones,” says Simola.

Now, Almi and Simola are once again leading the change in using the next generation of technology that KONE has deployed. With 24/7 Connected Services, an escalator will now be able to signal to them if something is gumming up the works, making it much easier to identify the location of the problem. As technology becomes smarter and devices become more intricate, the number of components and sensors in an escalator has increased, and continues to do so.

“It will be very beneficial to know more about a problem than just the fact that an escalator has stopped,” says Almi. “This is almost like the escalator talking to me, and guiding me in helping to make it run more efficiently.”

And that, at the end of the day, is what’s most important. Keeping equipment running well, helping people get from point A to point B, enabling smooth and uninterrupted people flow.

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