Role of IoT in the Digital World

Role of IoT in the Digital World

By Tony Black, President, Otis Service AndMarcus Galafassi, Vice President, IT and CIO, Otis

Tony Black, President, Otis Service

Nearly 165 years ago, Elisha Otis created the world’s first safe elevator and founded a company with one goal in mind—to move people safely to their upward destination.

Today as a part of United Technologies, we are bolstering our legacy with the latest in technology to introduce a completely new digital service ecosystem. This innovative system connects our teams and customers to each other, providing the information they want and expect in today’s digital age.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide our service teams with instant access to the contract and installation history, and the service performance data associated with every account”

Let me offer a potentially real-world scenario: You’re to give an important presentation at an office building thirty minutes away. You leave early, but traffic causes you to arrive with just five minutes to spare. You grab the first available elevator, begin your ascent . . . and then the elevator stalls.

Under this scenario, you’d be late. But Otis is harnessing the power of IoT to do everything we can to provide a consistently smooth, on-time arrival.

Through predictive elevator dashboards, machine-learning, equipment health mapping, and mobile apps, we’re using IoT to keep our elevators and escalators moving and to deliver a more seamless customer experience in the process.

Marcus Galafassi, Vice President, IT and CIO, Otis


Moving people is at the center of future thinking. But we must embrace the next generation of digital tools to sustain and advance our industry leadership.

How do we get there? We learned, tested and then we iterated by listening to customers and our own employees. We talked to customers, creating journey maps, and pain point analyses. We also talked to those closest to our customers—our 31,000 service technicians—in focus groups and ride-along sessions to grasp the full extent of the challenges they were encountering in keeping some 2 billion people on the move every day.

Then we stepped up with one of the largest investments Otis has ever made in digital and engineering.

A key component of that investment is IoT

30 years ago, Otis was one of the first to use Remote Elevator Monitoring to address maintenance issues. Today, we’re applying cloud-based technologies, data science, AI, and machine learning to that 30 plus years of remote monitoring to create a smarter elevator experience. The equipment data we receive today helps us to actually predict when an elevator or escalator will need attention.

Say an elevator door remains open too long. That elevator’s control unit will alert us, and then we’ll feed that alert into a cloud-based data warehouse. Machine learning will help us determine what caused the door to remain open, and if it was a routine incident, such as apartment residents moving in furniture on a weekend. If not, we would know to send out a service technician to repair the elevator before it had any major issues.

All the data we receive from these connected units is filtered through intelligent dashboards where we evaluate it and generate ‘health maps’ that show the condition of each connected unit. Those maps and reports enable us to schedule maintenance visits (during off-peak hours) for those elevators that appear most likely to encounter a problem. Because we’re investigating those units before they shut down, our technicians arrive with more information about a potential problem and a more thorough understanding of how to solve it. And that results in greater equipment uptime.


Developing more holistic customer relationships is one of the major benefits we expect with IoT. Our ultimate goal is to provide our service teams with instant access to the contract and installation history, and the service performance data associated with every account. To better support our customers, we plan to share with them the system’s analysis of the performance we deliver to them.

We’re also relying on IoT to help us address challenges our mechanics have grappled with for years. Say a mechanic needs a part, but can’t identify it. In the past, that employee would call the branch for that identification. Or, they’d drive there, and hunt for the part in a giant paper directory.

Today our mechanics find that part far more quickly thanks to a Parts App we’ve developed and installed on the iPhones we’ve provided them with. What’s more, they can use that app to access an image of the part and the instructions for installing it.

Even better, the Parts App is just one of a series of smart phone tools we’ve developed for our technicians, and the mechanics reinvest the time these apps save them into getting to know their customers by name and offering them more customized service than was previously not possible.

The IoT Imperative

As in history’s great innovation epochs—be it the steam engine, electricity, or automation—today’s technology is revolutionizing the way we work, live, and move through the world. Driverless cars, AI, and IoT affirm that the overlap between digital and physical is more intertwined than ever before.

The imperative is clear: whether you’re a 165-year-old elevator company or a startup, we must all evolve to take advantage of digital innovation. And we must all do it to keep people moving safely to their future destinations.

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