Reporter Journal / Chris Davis

The 2-minute elevator pitch is getting turned upside down

By Chris Davis ( Updated: 2017-02-17 05:17

You could call this one a vertical market that’s about to get a lift.

A Shenzhen based company is pioneering two Internet of Things (IoT) technologies targeting one of the largest captive audiences anywhere — the riders of China’s 4.26 million elevators.

First is a cloud-based digital display terminal known as Yunfa Net that developer China Information Technology, Inc. (CNIT) says is already signed to be in 50,000 elevators across China, mostly commercial office buildings and residential high-rises.

Aside from displaying local news and weather, the system has interactive advertising that allows passengers to ask questions about products and even make purchases. Some even have facial recognition technology that lets it “remember” a shopper’s preferences and share them with other terminals (and tempt you with something you might like on your next ride, no doubt).

Yunfa Net also makes advertisers’ lives easier, allowing them to use a PC or mobile app to create an ad and send it directly to targeted elevator display terminals across China.

“A fast food chain could create ads for cold drinks and send them to terminals in hot locations, and send hot drink ads to terminals in cool locations,” the company boasts.

Jewelry companies and high-end luxury item sellers can drop their ads into elevators in posh hotels, where the well-heeled are free to make impulse buys.

The smart elevator is not all about marketing. CNIT is also introducing a service to increase safety in elevators, something the Chinese government has said is “urgently needed,” the company says.

Smart modules collect data 24/7 from the car and stream it to building maintenance, property management and local police, any of which can respond if there is trouble. It also maintains service records and switches on lights in an emergency.

This safety component of the service CNIT hopes to market to half of China’s 4.26 million elevators by 2020.

Concern about elevator safety in China came to the front as far back as 2013, when then deputy head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Chen Gang, called for the training of more elevator maintenance professionals after a string of deadly accidents involving malfunctioning equipment, apparently because of shoddy maintenance.

At the time, the number of elevators in China was increasing 20 percent a year, having reached 2.45 million by 2012, making China number one in the world in numbers of elevators in use, production and growth.

“The dramatic increase in elevators in use, the aging of equipment and the heavy load on elevators and escalators threaten their safe operation,” Chen told China Daily at the time.

Fan Kun, director of a special equipment testing institution responsible for examining all elevators and escalators in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, said that after receiving reports submitted by companies that maintain the elevators, the institution “often found in the follow-up examination that the condition of the elevator differed from what they said in the report.”

“Sometimes, some maintenance workers with a heavy workload would just skip some tests and fill in fake results,” he told China Daily.

The Internet of Things and safety-focused apps like CNIT’s can help put an end to that.

With China building more skyscrapers than any other country in the world in 2016 — 84 of the 128 completed worldwide — shattering its previous year record of 68 completions in 2015 (picture bamboo in growing season), it seems inevitable that more and more people will be spending more and more time riding the up-and-down cars.

CNIT says it’s currently selling its cloud app services in 11 cities in China and by 2020 hopes to be in an additional 45 cities across the country.

Sell to your captive audience, sure, but first make sure they’re safe.

Contact the writer at chrisdavis@chinadailyusa. com.

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