KONE Elevates Its IoT Strategy

As the internet of things (IoT) takes shape, one thing is becoming very clear: Virtually no industry or business remains untouched by this new wave of technology. Already, connected systems deliver deep insight into business on a level that was previously unimaginable. The IoT generates data that, when put to proper use, leads directly to efficiency gains and cost savings.

One company that understands the IoT value proposition is KONE, a leading manufacturer and operator of elevators, escalators and automated doorway systems. The company, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, manages elevators in more than 60 countries and has a business presence in about 100 countries.

“The expectations of building owners is changing dramatically as technological innovation takes place,” observes Danilo Elez, senior vice president of service for KONE Americas. “There are growing expectations about performance.”

As a result, KONE has embarked on an ambitious initiative to take its operations into the digital age and deliver information about speed, performance, comfort, smoothness and maintenance to customers, which include major office buildings, hotels and airports.

“We want to deliver greater value to customers through data and analytics, so that they can run their systems better,” Elez explains. “There has always been a preponderance of data from sensors and systems, but it wasn’t possible to put it to use. Now, the technology has advanced to the point where the data is actionable.”

Gaining New and Greater Insights Into Data

KONE has entered into a partnership with IBM to use the company’s Watson Technology to gain new and greater insights into data. By connecting systems in real time and building an analytics platform to display results visually, it’s possible to track more than 200 critical factors and parameters, such as the number of starts and stops, temperature, stopping accuracy, the precise level to the opening, and various other mechanical and engineering data.

This tracking ability enables managers to gain insight into the smoothness of the ride, maintenance requirements and even likely parts failures. “These are factors that are extremely important for customers,” Elez points out.

Not surprisingly, the project isn’t without challenges. One major obstacle to establishing 24×7 connected services is the fact that different customers—and sometimes even the same customers—rely on legacy equipment and state-of-the-art elevator and escalator systems. This makes it necessary to retrofit older systems with sensors and other data collection devices; build communications systems to transmit the data; tap APIs and cloud systems to connect various data sources; and establish a robust data analytics platform that can accommodate massive data sets.

Watson delivers algorithms and machine learning capabilities that KONE hopes will take the initiative to far more advanced levels. For example, the company hopes to better understand the relationships between components and how they behave at different periods in their lifespan.

“We want to understand performance a week from now, but also a year from now,” Elez explains. “We want to understand how to optimize usage, maintenance and the replacement of parts.” In order to achieve these results, the system monitors parameters as often as 200 times per second.

“We are in the business of transporting people,” Elez says, “and we want to do the best job possible. Data offers insight and answers that can transform our industry.”


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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