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INSIGHTS

A close look at elevator intercoms, and why it might be time to upgrade them

A close look at elevator intercoms, and why it might be time to upgrade them
Intercoms can be seen in many places, including in elevators. This article takes a closer look at elevator intercoms and explains why it might be time to upgrade them, especially as 4G becomes the mainstream cellular technology.
Intercoms can be seen in many places, including in elevators. This article takes a closer look at elevator intercoms and explains why it might be time to upgrade them, especially as 4G becomes the mainstream cellular technology.
 
Intercoms are critical elements in elevators. Upon power outages, sudden stoppage or other events that are emergency in nature, elevator riders rely on the intercom to communicate with the outside world.
 

How it works

 
Given elevator intercoms provide a vital communication link between the elevator cabin and the control center, how such communication works warrants further understanding. According to Pavel Kotek, Lift Sales Director at 2N, the communication architecture partially depends on the type of the elevator intercom and gateway (and technology) used.
 
“In general, the elevator intercom is placed in the cabin and typically connected with the machine room via only two wires in the traveling cable (it doesn’t matter if it is an analog, digital or IP communicator),” Kotek said. “This signal is then converted by the gateway placed in the machine room. How this happens depends on the technology used for the transmission to the call center.”
 
Even though most elevator intercoms are still analog-based, IP solutions are gaining traction due to the benefits they offer. “IP-based intercoms are more and more popular because they offer full connectivity in the cabin, not only for reliable emergency communications, but also for video surveillance, public address systems, remote management and access control systems,” Kotek said.
 

Upgrades needed

 
Conventionally, communication between the elevator gateway and the call center is carried out by way of PSTC (public switched telephone circuit) lines or cellular, mostly in the forms of 2G and 3G. This however creates certain issues. PSTN lines can be quite expensive. 2G and 3G, meanwhile, are more and more obsolete and may soon be shut down by telecom operators across the globe.
 
“If the technicians do not manage in time and the elevator is connected through the gateway connected to a 2G/3G network which is shut down, the communication will simply not work and people trapped in the lift will not be able to communicate with the dispatch center. Plus, of course, the elevator will not meet legal regulations,” Kotek said.
 
An upgrade to 4G, then, is recommended. “The only right way is to upgrade the communication gateway to one supporting 4G networks and, ideally, VoIP communication,” Kotek said. “We recommend the use of 4G gateways supporting a SIP protocol. In this case, the voice is transmitted via VoIP protocol and the other end needs to have an IP phone/IP call center to receive a call.”
 
According to Kotek, the upgrade can be done in several ways: through retrofit projects, modular solutions and full IP installation. “Retrofit projects are typically about addressing this problem, upgrading the existing gateway to transition from 2G/3G to 4G. Modular solutions do the same, and tend to be chosen for demanding high-rise and multi shaft installations. Full IP installations are increasingly popular because they offer fully ‘norm conform’ and future proof solution solving all elevator needs, using just two conductors in the travelling cable,” he said.
 

Upgrade opportunity ripe amid construction boom

 
Elevators are important to buildings. A good elevator can significantly add value to a building. Elevator specialists, then, should leverage cutting-edge security technologies, intercoms included, to boost elevators’ quality and usability, especially amid a construction boom in many parts of the world now, post-COVID.
 
“The recovery of the construction sector will lead to new lift projects and also to lift upgrades as part of building renovations. The important thing for all lift specialists is to help building owners understand that lifts can be far more than simply a means of transporting people between floors – the latest technology can transform them into a major asset for any building,” Kotek said.
 
Certain regulations and standards can provide further incentives for building owners to upgrade lifts and elevators. CEN TC10, based in Europe, for example will amend standards to improve the accessibility of lifts for people with disabilities, requiring two-way emergency communication to take into account various types and levels of sensory abilities among passengers. According to Kotek, this could potentially require building owners to consider VoIP technology for emergency communication in their lifts.
 
“One of the advantages of voice over Internet Protocol technology is that it offers crystal clear sound, which can be a big help for people who are hard of hearing,” Kotek said.
 


Product Adopted:
Two-Way Intercom
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