Most elevators in the world are technologically completely stupid. And while they may be quite safe to use, conventional elevators are still built mostly from mechanical systems that cannot communicate with each other. The Israeli startup company Escalade Innovative Solutions, based in Kfar Saba (in central Israel), seeks to change all this and jump-start the elevator industry, which seems to have been overlooked by the high-tech revolution of recent years.
Replacing the old control panel
In an exclusive interview with Israel’s daily business newspaper Calcalist, Escalade founder Sharon Cohen and marketing vice president Guy Gottlieb talk about the change that the company seeks to introduce into this dormant field.
“The main advantage of our systems is that they can be seamlessly integrated into existing elevators. As a first step, we offer companies to replace the outdated control panels installed in their elevators with our computerized systems. These systems include a touch screen and embed all operational functions of conventional elevators — emergency alarm, service and maintenance calls, fan, etc. — on a single, easily operated control panel.”
The touch screen is just the first innovation offered by Escalade. “We allow each building to adapt the elevator to its own specific needs. Thus, the elevator may include an access code, biometric fingerprint identification, a smart card, and more. In one of the buildings in Israel where our system has been installed, each of the floors has been assigned a unique password, so that it can be accessed only by those provided with the suitable password,” Cohen says.
”A large number of elevators in Israel are operated as Shabbat elevators [running automatically on Saturdays, to accommodate the needs of observant Jews]. Nowadays, Shabbat elevators are continuously operated throughout Saturday, stopping on each floor, a mode of operation that incurs significantly high costs and results in accelerated wear and tear. Our system allows users to program the elevator to stop at predetermined floors, and to configure its operation by means of simple software settings.
“Elevator wear and tear is one of the most problematic issues for elevator companies. Our systems enable them to monitor elevator loads, identify rush hours, manage the elevator operation up and down the floors, analyze operation data of different elevators, anticipate failures, and more.”
A mechanism that seamlessly integrates into existing elevators
Escalade was launched in 2010. The idea was conceived by Cohen, who was looking for ways to apply the know-how of the high-tech industry, in which he was engaged at the time, to the elevator business, in which his family has been active for the last 40 years, through a company owned by his father.
“Business turnover in the elevator market currently stands at $70 billion globally, with a constant growth rate of about 5% per year. The number of elevators around the world is estimated at roughly 11 million, a high percentage of which will have to undergo substantial upgrading and modification in the coming decade. We focus on this segment of the elevator market as our primary target market.”
So far, Escalade systems have been installed in a few dozen buildings in Israel, at the cost of several thousand dollars per installation. Next, the company intends to expand into the American market, using the services of a distributor located in the United States. Escalade is at present in the initial stages of raising capital from angel investors, having already raised $600,000 from private investors to start with. The company is seeking to raise capital primarily to expand its marketing activities and to enhance its technology.
The advanced capabilities offered by Escalade’s intelligent elevators aside, the company has not ignored the safety aspect, and it even offers to upgrade existing emergency measures.
The smart Escalade system includes special sensors that enable it to automatically detect stress and failure situations, directly summon the emergency services, and alert the elevator service company — and all this without even pressing the built-in emergency button. At the same time, the system opens in-cabin audio and video communication channels to the outside world, designed to calm and reassure passengers stuck in the elevator.
"In present-day elevators, if a person gets stuck in the elevator and cannot reach the emergency button, it is a real problem. With our system he is not dependent on any button to come to his rescue,” Cohen says.
Time-adjustable in-cabin advertising
Besides the various features offered by the Escalade system, it provides for the integration of advertising and marketing applications in elevators installed in office buildings or large residential buildings.
“Passengers using present-day elevators often find themselves trapped in a narrow space with complete strangers, feeling embarrassed with nothing better to do than stare at thin air.
“TV screens installed in elevators today display out-of-context advertisements that have no relevance to the time of day or the specific needs of the passengers. We adapt the advertisements to both the time of day and the needs of the passengers.
“Thus, for instance, in an office building where people regularly go out for lunch at a certain hour, we may offer them coupons for restaurants in the vicinity and limit the advertisement time frame to the elevator ride time. After all, a passenger entering an elevator would rather watch an advertisement video clip from beginning to end than be exposed to fragmented advertising,” Cohen notes.
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