Giving elevator maintenance an IoT lift

Singapore-based startup Elevate Tech wants to enable predictive maintenance for elevators by selling data intelligence instead of hardware. To date, the start-up has monitored 10 million lift rides since its launch last year with its IoT platform.

Image courtesy of Elevate Tech

In land scarce Singapore, high rise buildings are part of everyday life. According to the Building and Construction Authority, there are about 70,000 passenger lifts and 7,000 escalators in Singapore. Keeping these running smoothly and safely necessitates maintenance at least once a month and to undergo an examination, inspection and testing once a year.

To facilitate this critical infrastructure maintenance, Singapore-based startup Elevate Tech has a mission to transform and enable predictive maintenance for elevators by selling data intelligence instead of hardware.

To allow any elevator to be fixed before it is broken, Elevate Tech delivers its Internet of Things (IoT) solution on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, to protect lifts from breakdowns using AI algorithms. To date, the start-up has monitored 10 million lift rides since its launch last year.

We spoke with Dean Reinhard, Co-Founder of Elevate Tech, on the company’s journey, their tech team, and the IoT scene in Singapore.

How did the company begin? What inspired the founders to enter this specific service?

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Elevate Tech was founded in May 2019 by 3 founders, to solve the problems plaguing the US$100 billion vertical transportation industry that delivers services critical to people’s daily lives. Despite the billions of dollars spent on lifts annually, the industry relies heavily on old technology and a shrinking pool of skilled manpower to keep lifts running. As a result, annually the industry experiences over 24 million breakdowns and 190 million hours of downtime.

We place our proprietary IoT sensors in lifts and escalators, utilizing machine led data analysis to reduce breakdowns, improve operations and maintenance efficiency and reduce maintenance cost.

Were there any other IoT services which you drew ideas from?

While the use of independent IoT sensors and data driven analysis is common in other industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas and transportation, we realised that the use of such technology in the lift industry was still very limited.

In these industries, it is commercially viable to deploy complex hardware solutions, which are expensive and difficult to install, as any downtime would have a significant impact on revenue generation.

Our approach was to create a solution for the vertical transportation industry that could be easily deployed into all lifts. It would need to be affordable, very reliable, easily deployed and result in limited disruption to lift operations.

Thus, we developed an intelligent software focused solution that operates off low cost and reliable off the shelf sensors, that can be deployed in lifts in 1 minute.

How large is your tech team? What kind of infrastructure do you use to enable your service?

Elevate Tech has four full time employees working on developing and improving the solution. Our team has over 40 years of experience in data analytics, IoT solutions and software development. We also work with specialists from the vertical transportation industry, such as engineers, technicians and maintenance company owners and operators.

Our cloud infrastructure along with the device management, IoT system and data analysis runs on the Google Cloud Platform.

Our infrastructure utilises both edge and cloud processing to deliver our solution. Inbuilt 4G connectivity ensures real time data is made available to our cloud infrastructure.

In the cloud, we perform further processing and analysis using Google’s Cloud Functions, before delivering the data to Firebase, for our dashboard and Apps, and to BigQuery, for analysis and storage.

By utilizing a microservice architecture approach we are able to rapidly scale our deployments without any added overheads. Edge processing and Google’s Cloud IoT Core ensures that we don’t lose any data when transmitting from a 200m tall lift shaft.

Did you face challenges in driving adoption of your system? How did you overcome them?

The vertical transportation industry has been operating the same way for the past 40 years, and industry participants are only now considering the benefits of deploying modern IoT sensors and relying on cheap and modern computing power to perform analysis.

As with any industry undergoing change, our largest challenge has been convincing customers that Elevate Tech’s solution is capable of doing more than what industry participants have been doing manually for the past 40 years.

We provide short term trials to potential customers to allow them to see the full benefit of the Elevate Tech solution and get past this mental barrier. Since our installation only takes only 1 minute and results in minimal disruption to lift operations, we are able to quickly deploy to multiple locations and provide a customer with useful insights within a very short time period, with no risk to the lift or its operations.

How is the IoT scene developing in Singapore? Has the pandemic affected this in any way?

Singapore’s Industry 4.0 and Smart City scene is developing rapidly. There are many businesses who are looking to digitize and add smarts to how they operate and many large companies are now integrating IoT and data analytics into their daily operations. Many small companies and teams are working to add intelligence to equipment that didn’t originally have IoT built in, allowing for upgrades rather than replacing perfectly usable equipment which is very costly and not possible for a lot of people.

COVID-19 has not heavily affected our business as it is a critical industry. We are actually seeing higher demand for our solution as it helps companies allocate maintenance teams more effectively and we are able to help owners to manage their assets and costs more appropriately during this time.

An interesting side effect of people working from home is that many lifts are operating on inefficient settings, which causes a significant waste of electricity and generates CO2 unnecessarily. By working together with lift owners and maintenance companies we are able to help reduce unnecessary energy wastage and adapt settings with changing circumstances.

What are your company’s long term plans?

We are continuing to roll out our solution across a wide range of customers in Singapore. We are currently deployed in offices, residential buildings, retail malls and social facilities. We aim to continue growing in Singapore with our current and future customers by providing them with cost effective and beneficial solutions for their vertical transportation systems before expanding further in the region.

With significant development put into our cloud system, we are also starting to open up our “Intelligence as a service” platform by providing API’s for customers who already have their own hardware or building management software and are looking to take advantage of an advanced and proven monitoring system. This will allow OEM’s and other IoT companies to skip the long and complicated process that comes with developing an effective predictive maintenance solution and simply subscribe to our platform.

This article first appeared on SMEhorizon.

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