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Making Lifts Smart for More Connected and Intelligent Services.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Smartlifts (Making Lifts Smart for More Connected and Intelligent Services.)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2015-04-30

The current innovation business project was submitted and approved on September 2014 as a SME Instrument (SMEI) Phase 1 with a total score of 13.41 (Impact: 4.45 / Excellence: 4.44 /Implementation: 4.52). After the execution of Phase 1, during three months, all the objectives has been achieved as scheduled.

Merak SL Telecomunicacions i Sistemes wants to completely digitalise a central means of mass transportation: lifts. Concentrating their technological advantages; such as the digitalisation of signals in the design of high speed net connection and the integration of advanced features into a single terminal, into one concept SmartLifts. It consists of a software –hardware service containing a gateway, audios modules, sensors and a management platform which synthesize connectivity and security within lifts. Thus, increasing safety and reducing maintenance cost and also shifting from the conventional lift emergency systems based in landline telephone communication towards a smarter lifts emergency system.

SmartLifts will allow the lift industry to migrate from existing fleet of analogue emergency telephone modules to a more versatile and efficient solution to incorporate a new technological culture in the lift fleet management and create a safer experience for millions of people who use lifts on a daily basis. Over the last three months Merak has designed a strong business plan, based in a SaaS maintenance service that will allow the remotely control of a company´s lifts fleet and improve all services provided by a lift maintenance company.

The economic feasibility of SmartElevator has also been widely analysed and the results show that the business model is viable (EBITDA margin = 18% after 6 years in the market).

It is important to mention that after market research and examination of international and national trademarks, the name of Smartlift was changed to SmartElevator. Smartlifts, in plural, was already registered, in the Spanish and European harmonization offices for the internal market. Smartlifts is the name of a product and a Spanish company, also working in the vertical transportation industry. Thus, Merak decided to change the name in order to avoid any intellectual property violations.
The outputs of each one of the tasks demonstrate that SmartElevator management communication suite is free to operate. During the execution of this action we have been able to compare our solutions with others. Similarly, we have studied similar hardware-software solutions in order to have them as references for further development and commercialization activities. That said our hardware/software service still shows to be innovative and relevant in the current market with room for development in order to offer a fully tele-diagnostic of the 74 (70 in case of certain EU countries) hazards that could affect lifts performance.

Furthermore, a work plan for future steps has been developed, which involves the presentation of a Phase II proposal. The first stage of Phase II is devoted to carry out the modifications needed in the existing cabin audio electronics to connect it to the new set of sensors and the smart camera, and to study options to enable high speed net connection between the cabin and the control panel. In parallel, the existing software will be further developed to store all the incidences, plus a mobile app to control in-situ repairs. When all the systems have been developed, the new lift control and alarm system will be integrated and pilot tested will be carried out in at least two different lift environments (residential and business buildings).
Overview of the Work done:

The current report is an overview of the work done during the execution of this phase 1. In the proposal five tasks where defined: market assessment, legal framework, business environment, IPR issues and business plan. Each one of this task served for the preparation of a feasibility study, which is the main output of this phase 1 and also is the starting point to prepare a phase 2 proposal.

During the execution of phase 1, a refinement of the existing hardware was carried out. Identifying new sensors to the existing hardware to monitor some of hazardous situations mentioned at the SNEL EN 81-80: 2003 European Standard as well as “Recommendation” 95/216/EC. At the moment, SmartElevator is based on an existing prototype that consists of a hardware-software solution with two main parts: a hand-free audio module that is installed in the elevator car and a module (gateway) incorporating 2G and 3G mobile technology that is installed in the elevator machine room. The future hand-free audio module could also be enabled with high speed net connection, thus improving data transfer between the cabin and the control panel. Currently, the connection to the audio module is performed by digital audio through CAN-BUS (controller area network) and the gateway offer connectivity to manoeuvre through standard data interfaces for remote telediognosis through M2M technology. The software solution is based on an open source web platform.
Figure 1 shows the basic functioning of the existing prototype, which is composed by the following steps:

Merak´s software (Figure 2) has been further developed taking into account other software solutions offered by competitors and the sensors that the new hardware will include. Based on the competition, key market applications were defined and target market was identified. The SmartElevator service will predominately target small and medium lifts service providers in Spain and open up to other European countries in the coming years. Risks such as; market resistance, product misinterpretation, strong market diversification and changes in legislation, were identified and a contingency plans were designed. Regarding IPR issues, a trademark registration search was carried out and identified that Smartlift was already an existing European product and brand. Therefore, the name of this hardware-software solution was changed to SmartElevator. Lastly, an updated business plan, as well as detailed work plan for phase 2 execution has been created.

1.1 Market Assessment

Throughout the last 20 years, Merak has been dedicating it’s time to design useful and safe telecommunication systems for the lift industry, producing reliable and technological advanced products that are accessible to everyone. In emergency situations, like in case of entrapment, Merak devices have always performed impeccably. From this accumulated experience, in the next 10 years we are getting ready to make a qualitative leap forward: Merak aims at becoming a strong European provider for intelligent and thorough lift communication services that contribute efficiently to the management of lift fleets and guarantee an optimal end-to-end service of medium and small maintenance companies to their clients.

Currently, Merak has around 15 strong competitors in Europe, from which, four are strong worldwide lift manufacturers: ThyssenKrupp, Otis, Kone and Schindler. To be able to compete with the large lift manufacturers, now moving towards the tertiary sector, Merak will need to offer a cost-effective and interoperable service to differentiate itself from these strong market actors. Moreover, Merak´s target market is small and medium companies, instead of large corporation buildings, which are lift manufacturers main clients. Merak´s clients will be small and medium maintenance companies that will offer Merak´s SaaS solution, thus allowing them to provide a cheaper and more effective maintenance and monitoring servi

In order to provide the proposed hardware/software service, Merak should adapt its current software and hardware as it was previously described. In order to do that, the company has developed a work plan and costs estimated required to complete SmartElevator to be ready for the market, including the validation by final users and maintenance companies. This workplan and Phase I feasibility study will be part of the SMEI phase II submission next June 2015.

WP1. Sensing devices

To develop a series of sensing devices to provide compulsory with the new European regulation EN 81-80. The main concept is to modify the minimum possible the current Merak cabin electronic module to adapt the new sensors to it. The current module has RS485 connectivity for a maximum of 20 new sensors.

WP2. Electonics development

Objectives: provide a high speed communication connection between the control panel and the cabin and modify the cabin electronic system to support all the new features of the Merak phone system.

WP3. Software development

To carry out the software development of the Merak cloud platform in order to scale up the exisiting platform, integrate the new developed sensors of the project and add new software functionalities to explote the new incoming sensor data and the new communication system developed in WP1. The mobile application for Maintenance operators will be designed and developed, and will integrate all the new functionalities developed in the Cloud platform.

WP4. Integration test

Objectives: to integrate all the components created and modified for the new Merak Phone System and to pre-certify that the new Merak Phone System accomplishes with all the European Normative.

WP5. Pilot tests

Objectives: To plan proper pilot tests to validate with real end users in their environment the capabilities of the Merak devices and to test the Merak devices and to collect information to improve the usability of the devices

WP6. Commercialisation

To develop a business innovation plan incorporating a detailed commercialization strategy (dissemination and exploitation) and a financing plan in view of market launch. To Define a Customer Development plan to validate business hypothesis and focus all activities towards growth.

WP7. Communication Activities

To disseminate both the project itself and its results in the most relevant forums. This involves both disseminating the project in the society, and scientifically, both in technical and clinical audiences (through referenced and dissemination papers, conference communications, and specific targeted web events, whenever possible).

WP8. Management

Review and assess the work being carried out by optimizing resources within the project, monitor subcontracted tasks, involve all company departments in the innovation process, facilitate the take-up of results by incorporating them in the BIP and in the CP, implement coaching and mentoring advice, manage IP knowledge and ensure that all aspects of the EC requirements for communication and reporting are met.

More information can be found in the feasibility study deliverable 1.

The total duration of the Phase II project will be 24 months, and the required investment to completely validate SmartElevator service and prove the business model proposed would be around 1.500.000 euros.
Existing prototype
Porter graph
Analysis of competition
Prospective clients
Standard Pack
Advanced Pack
User´s installation page - Software
Logo proposals
Financial Table