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Solutions for a healthier new urban normal

As we ease out of lockdown and re-enter public buildings, we need to once again feel comfortable in urban spaces. From self-disinfecting handrails to smart people flow planning, innovative solutions that support well-being will help people transition to a new normal.

May 11, 2020

Over a year ago, hardly any of us gave a second thought to entering an elevator or stepping into the bustling lobby of a large building. These everyday occurrences were as trivial as putting on a coat or brushing your hair.

Today, everything is different. As we slowly return to workplaces and other public or semi-public premises, we must come to terms with a “new normal”. Places where we once casually gathered are now imbued with a sense of uncertainty.

We need to find ways to regain our confidence in the spaces we used to love. This requires rethinking how we interact with our everyday environments, in cities, and with the buildings we move through.

From touch-free elevator calling to people flow planning, smart solutions can help people regain confidence in public spaces again.
From touch-free elevator calling to people flow planning, smart solutions can help people regain confidence in public spaces again.

It is now clear that COVID-19 has had far-reaching impacts on all aspects of life in cities as we know it. KONE’s elevator and escalator service technicians have been working throughout the pandemic to keep societies running, and the KONE 24/7 Connected Services solution has been providing real-time equipment diagnostics to prevent downtime, especially in critical settings like hospitals.

At the same time, experts from across KONE have been working to find new ways to support customers in preparing for a new normal: matching up innovations with existing technologies and services to make built environments healthier.

Two key questions have been at the forefront as the KONE health and well-being suite of solutions has been put together: how can KONE help lower the risk of diseases spreading through contact with surfaces in shared spaces; and how can KONE’s people flow expertise be used to encourage physical distancing and enable a safe and convenient return to public settings?

Physical distancing made easy

A chief concern among building owners now is ensuring people can move easily, freely and confidently through buildings once they return, says Hanna Inget, Head of New Services and Solutions* at KONE. How could buildings be used, and possibly altered, to enable physical distancing and to reduce crowding in common spaces like lobbies and elevators?

Smart people flow planning helps buildings adjust to the changes they face in the wake of COVID-19.
Smart people flow planning helps buildings adjust to the changes they face in the wake of COVID-19.

KONE People Flow Planning and Consulting is a custom service that can support the safe return of people to buildings like offices. Using KONE’s expert knowledge, data, and simulation tools, the service provides an understanding, for example, of how physical distancing measures impact people flow in a specific building, and what measures could help reduce crowding and bottlenecks. Using artificial intelligence, human behavior models and mathematical modeling, KONE’s People Flow Simulator enables the visual simulation of different scenarios for and journeys within buildings, from parking garage to desk.

“There are more than a billion daily KONE elevator and escalator users around the world, and our insight and expertise in people flow, and in how to impact the people flow experience in different types of buildings, is second to none,” says Inget. “This expertise is particularly valuable to our customers when they or their buildings face big changes. People flow has become our core competence.”

No need to press the button

As people in China started returning to work, another real concern related to shared spaces became extremely clear: people were unwilling to touch common surfaces like buttons or handrails.

“One thing we were seeing was that people were getting to the elevator and then just waiting for someone else to press the button,” says Inget.

Summoning an elevator with your phone helps to avoid the need to touch surfaces.
Summoning an elevator with your phone helps to avoid the need to touch surfaces.

The KONE Elevator Call is a response to this. It allows users to summon an elevator with their mobile device, removing the need to touch potentially contaminated buttons or displays.

The solution can be added to existing elevators, and is especially well-suited to KONE DX Class elevators. The latter feature built-in connectivity and act as a platform that enables new services and solutions to be added flexibly as customer needs arise. And this is exactly what KONE has now done: developed and built on existing solutions to address arising customer pain points.

“KONE Elevator Call allows you to avoid crowded elevator lobbies and catch your elevator without touching any shared surfaces. This is something we’ve already offered for residential elevators, and we have now developed and expanded that service to make it compatible with elevators in other existing buildings,” says Inget.

Breathe easy inside the elevator

To further reduce concerns over elevator use, KONE has introduced the new KONE Elevator AirPurifier to selected markets. It uses technology – including an advanced photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) process developed by NASA for air control on spaceships – to improve air quality in the elevator car by destroying most potential pollutants, like bacteria, viruses, dust and odors.

The smart materials used in KONE DX Class elevators promote hygiene by actively preventing the spread of microbes.
The smart materials used in KONE DX Class elevators promote hygiene by actively preventing the spread of microbes.

In addition, KONE DX Class elevators can be furnished with anti-microbial handrails and wall finishes, specialized coatings that reduce up to 99% of bacteria. This is a first line of defense against the spread of disease from contaminated surfaces.

Holding on with confidence

Inget says that during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, building owners observed that escalator users were using handrails less and less.

She understands: “If you don’t think the handrail is clean, you don’t want to hold it.” But not holding the escalator handrail is not a great option as it increases the risk of injury from loss of balance. A solution was needed to tackle both these issues.

The result is KONE Handrail Sanitizer Premium, an escalator handrail cleaning solution that helps protect users with automatic and continuous triple cleaning technology significantly reducing bacteria and viruses from the handrail.

“When you know this, you don’t need to make a choice between touching a potentially contaminated surface and keeping your balance.”

Self-disinfecting handrails significantly reduce bacteria and viruses, so users don’t compromise on safety.
Self-disinfecting handrails significantly reduce bacteria and viruses, so users don’t compromise on safety.

Keep on moving

As we all learn to live by the new norms of our cities, neighborhoods and buildings, it’s likely we’ll continue to insist on smooth people flow once we do get going again. The transparency and preventive maintenance offered by the cloud based KONE 24/7 Connected Services can help here.

KONE’s suite of health and well-being solutions – which also include touch-free entrance door opening, and real-time information sharing through the KONE Information solution – can be mixed and matched according to customers’ needs. And new solutions for healthy and safe people flow environments will continue to be developed.

“We all appreciate the things in life that promote a sense of well-being and give us peace of mind,” says Inget. “I am really excited about the positive impact KONE can have on our customers' premises and on urban spaces as a whole. In this new reality, it feels important to offer services and solutions that enhance our collective health and well-being.”

Legal disclaimer:
The services, products or solutions described here as KONE health and well-being solutions promote health and well-being. However, the solutions do not ensure that no diseases or infections will occur at premises where they are being used. KONE cannot be held liable for any infections or diseases occurring at such facilities or the resulting medical consequences.

Editor’s note: References to COVID-19, as well as mentions of KONE solutions, have been updated on June 30, 2021, to reflect the timely status of the pandemic recovery, which varies globally.

*) Following the publication of this article, Hanna Inget has taken on a new position as Head of Customer Solutions Engineering in KONE Operations Development.

READ MORE
Health and well-being solutions
Smarter surfaces, cleaner elevators
Science meets design for perfected people flow
Connecting more than floors to tickle your senses
Focusing on the customer to get through COVID-19
Look beyond the danger and see the opportunity in the crisis
Using cloud technology to keep critical sites operational in a time of crisis
Certified with a green bill of health
Green ambition

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