More enjoyable, less stress

thyssenkrupp Elevator is making a resolute move forward into the digital age. Integrating Microsoft HoloLens technology will give service technicians the ability to leverage computer-generated 3D applications and acquire virtual assistance from around the world in an effort to increase the uptime of elevators.

The elevator industry is moving into the digital age, and thyssenkrupp Elevator is at the forefront. It is the first company to use ‘mixed reality’ in performing maintenance and repair work on elevator systems, by which computer-generated visual information is merged with the actual surroundings. The device is Microsoft HoloLens, customized to Elevator’s specific requirements. A fusion of futuristic sunglasses and a compact protective visor, it is a stand-alone computer running Windows 10, capable of generating holographic visualizations of objects.

Gradually, thyssenkrupp plans to enable its more than 24,000 service technicians with access to the high-tech equipment. The use of HoloLens is expected to help reduce the downtimes of elevators, just like the cloud-supported maintenance solution MAX already does. At a presentation of thyssenkrupp’s application of HoloLens in New York on September 15, Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO at thyssenkrupp Elevator, stated, “The goal is to increase the operating times of our elevators. Therefore, we want to ramp up efficiency and increase the speed of service so users always have a safe and comfortable experience when riding elevators.” He added, “We are the leaders of change in the elevator industry and will continue to use the latest technologies to drive the industry norm.”

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Microsoft launched HoloLens in 2015. With this device, users can bring 3D applications into their field of vision by using gestures and voice commands. Thanks to the transparent screen, they have a view of their surroundings as well. HoloLens produces a mixed reality that vastly exceeds applications such as Google Glass.

Initially, thyssenkrupp Elevator service technicians will use HoloLens’ video telephony feature for Skype calls. It will enable them to connect with experts from branch offices and plants around the world via live feed and then incorporate troubleshooting and error localization into the service process. Thanks to the integrated headset device, both hands remain free, so it is possible to move them and carry out the experts’ instructions as necessary. The benefits of HoloLens are especially evident when it comes to elevators that were installed by other manufacturers and for which thyssenkrupp is in charge of maintenance.

In addition, HoloLens could be used in fields of application such as training and education in the mid-term; for example, one could run through a simulation of a job using holographic images. The device could also be used to practice common and routine repair jobs. Another advantage of HoloLens: It can increase the safety of working with elevator systems on-site because it can display potentially dangerous aspects such as areas with high voltages.

The pilot phase for thyssenkrupp’s application of HoloLens will be concluded at the end of the year. So far, the feedback from the safety audit gives a positive picture. The HoloLens device is comfortable to wear, doesn’t narrow the field of vision, and is easy to use. Andreas Schierenbeck predicts that “Our technicians will soon do their jobs better than ever before: with less stress and while enjoying it more.”

Four questions for Thomas Felis, HoloLens Project Manager at thyssenkrupp Elevator

When did you realize that HoloLens was a perfect fit for thyssenkrupp Elevator?

We realized pretty quickly after Microsoft presented HoloLens that the device was eons ahead of everything else that was already available on the mixed reality market. Because it’s a full-fledged computer, it is unbelievably powerful. It frees up your hands, and you can comfortably and intuitively control it in a variety of ways in both the real and virtual world. We can really use all these aspects in our service offerings.

Where do you see the greatest benefits from HoloLens?

Remote troubleshooting - in areas where we need to incorporate experts from other branches so they can assist our technicians on-site to work more quickly and effectively. No matter whether this person needs expert knowledge or just direct access to specific information; in the end, it’s always the same: The customer has a problem with an elevator and expects it to be resolved quickly and sustainably. HoloLens can help immensely in this aspect.

Will HoloLens ever become a mainstay in every service technician’s tool box, such as pliers or a set of wrenches?

Why not? It’s a nice idea. Even the opportunity for technicians to prepare for a specific job using HoloLens would be something! Or its potential for data storage! You could access the history of downtimes and their causes for a specific elevator and use it together with MAX to integrate maintenance and repair work.

What would you have to say to someone who’d prefer to stick to his screwdriver and set of wrenches to work on a broken elevator? Not everyone is a tech freak.

We don’t plan to stop them. But we do intend to create awareness for the need to use devices such as HoloLens to facilitate work and make it safer. Furthermore, we can find solutions much quicker for our customers, and better ones, too. That’s what it’s about.

Thomas Felis, thyssenkrupp Elevator