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Hitachi

Elevators, Escalators

Developer interview
Control the Flow of
People and Add
New Value to Buildings

The barriers of congestion associated
with smart buildings

As buildings become taller and security more advanced the needs of people diversify and their flow through buildings becomes more complex. Focusing on elevators, problems like congestion during the morning commute and lunch time is a clear issue.
"Elevators are an artery for vertical travel through buildings, and their congestion has been a big barrier in the implementing smart buildings. Users feel stress, as it takes a long time for an elevator to come after calling it. Users become irritated because full elevators stop at every floor even though no more people can board. To resolve these stresses, we believed a change of mindset was necessary.

Users face potential stressors in crowds during lunch and at other times.

To do this, instead of looking at elevators in terms of individual travel events, we focused on the facilitation of the entire experience as people travel from the entrance to their desk. Taking advantage of the synergy between the Elevator Operations Management Simulation, which we have provided for some time, and the People Flow Simulation that includes in-station congestion prediction, which Hitachi Group has cultivated in the railway field, we began developing a people flow analysis system supporting the planning of installations of elevators and other facilities looking at the entirety of a building," said Hatori.

Users face potential stressors in crowds during lunch and at other times.

Hitachi Group Synergies

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Automatic ticket gate at a train station
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Elevator hall
Takahiro Hatori
Elevator System Development Dept.
Development & Production Management Div.
Elevator & Escalator Div.
Takahiro Hatori

Using simulations to predict how people
will move inside the building

To solve the problem, Hitachi developed the People Flow Simulator to predict the mutual influence between users and elevators and simulate using computer graphics people's movement in the building. Users input information into The People Flow Simulator such as building layouts, number of floors, elevators, escalators, security gates, and automatic doors, and the number of people traveling from the entrance to doors of the rooms, for each building. The simulator then visualizes the movement of elevators, the total number of people waiting and the length of waiting times at elevator areas. "To ensure people's uncertain behaviors are represented in the simulation, we actually went to sites to observe the movement of people, in addition to the theoretical data analysis studies. Why did this person move like this and why did that person not do the same thing? Also, using on-site information, we increased the accuracy of the simulator's predictions," said Fujiwara.
The People Flow Simulator supports customers' building facilities installation plans, enabling movement inside the building to be optimized.
"The People Flow Simulator enables us to intuitively understand the problem of flow lines and the extent of congestion. The tool emphasizes the sharing of thoughts with customers in the process for developing a building facilities installation plan and the ideas for making decisions. It’s very useful for communication and conveying information to customers. Customers have told us the simulations were easy to understand and enabled them to understand the movement of elevators at a glance," said Fujiwara.

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People Flow Simulator screenshot 3D animation makes the simulation intuitive and easy to understand.
Masayasu Fujiwara
Research & Development Group
Center for Technology Innovation -Mechanical Engineering
Robotics Research Department
Masayasu Fujiwara

The Elevator Operations
Management System also changes
its concept to be people flow-oriented

Conventional elevator operations management targeted even interval operations. While advancing development, we found that this was not able to react to sudden increases of people, such as during the morning commute, during lunch, or after meetings and seminars where many participants would gather, causing crowds.
People Flow Predicting Elevator Operations Management System FI-700, the latest elevator operations management system, improves on the above-mentioned situation. It is built and controlled based on the expertise in prediction obtained through development of the People Flow Simulator.
The concept underlying it is a shift of thinking from car-oriented thinking to serve cars efficiently to people flow-oriented thinking that designs a smooth flow of people in the building.
"Our goal is to provide a comfortable traveling environment aligned to the unconscious behaviors of each user. Many different kinds of information related to use and operations are stored in a database, and directions can be sent to cars automatically ahead of the users’ thoughts. For example, in Building A, many people rush to the elevators from the 1F entrance at 8:30 am every morning, especially on Mondays. Based on a database containing a record of this, we can have 3 elevators waiting for them every morning, and have 4 elevators on Mondays," said Hatori.
FI-700 predicts the flow of people and reacts to their movements, achieving up to a 20% reduction of waiting time.* In Japan, those were introduced in large cities, and have drawn high expectations.

 *
Compared to FI-600, a group-control elevator system including future prediction intelligence released in September 2005, under the conditions of operating and managing 6 elevators moving at 150m/min in a 15-story building.
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Shifting from operations optimized for elevators to operations aligned to the flow of people, improving services.

People Flow Analysis Technology
responding to the changing times

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the world, people have also paid attention to how elevators are used. The WHO (World Health Organization) has stated that avoiding crowds, maintaining distance from other people, avoiding physical contact, and not touching objects in shared spaces are measures that individuals can take to protect themselves. In the new normal where people must predict the flow of people and avoid close contact, people have high expectations for the People Flow Simulation. "In the future, we will apply this technology and combine it with other technology, to align equipment with users movements in all sorts of facilities in buildings, for example, using the data from elevator operations to understand the density of users on floors to control air conditioning for optimal ventilation, or using contactless registration devices to enable touchless operations, to reduce user stress and avoid close contact. We would like to apply a wholistic approach toward the facilitation of people's movements from the building's entrance until they arrive at their desk, to improve life in the new normal," said Hatori.

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In addition, a young employee who joined the company in 2019 is involved in the project, bringing with them the perspective of a new era led by technology, "I was assigned to this project in my second year in the company. I think People Flow Analysis is a key technology that broadens the potential of elevators. Through conversations with customers as we worked to create building facility plans, I also realized the usefulness of the technology to support visual, easy-to-understand facility plans. In developing new technologies and services for the future, the simulator enables us to evaluate the flow of people in a virtual space. I would like to use it to evaluate the operability of the products we develop, to develop products that users want, which makes customers happy and enables us to quickly provide products. I’ll do my best in development," said Saito.

Taichi Saito
Elevator System Development Dept.
Development & Production Management Div.
Elevator & Escalator Div.
Taichi Saito
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In this era, things change rapidly. In any era, focused on their goal of a safe, secure, and comfortable future for people, buildings, and society, the endeavors of the People Flow Analysis Technology project members continue.

Release Date: January 25, 2021

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