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Dialogue with the Chief Lumada Business Officer

Delivering new value for the buildings that support our cities 
Leveraging IT, OT, and Products to Resolve Issues


Delivering new value for the buildings that support our cities Leveraging IT, OT, and Products to Resolve Issues

Building owners and managers face an array of rapidly changing challenges, from adjusting to workstyle reforms and the new normal, to taking steps to achieve carbon neutrality. Well established in the elevators and escalators (hereinafter E&E) business, the Building Systems BU*1 of Hitachi, Ltd. (hereinafter Hitachi) has expanded its business to include other building services, applying its accumulated experience, data, and digital technologies to create new value and resolve building-related issues. In the course of these efforts, what role does Lumada play? What value can the use of digital technologies offer to building systems? We explore these topics in a discussion with Yoshimitsu Kaji, Senior Principal of the Lumada Innovation Hub, and Takehisa Kodama, Chief Lumada Business Officer of the Building Systems BU.

BU: business unit

Predictive diagnosis made possible by accumulated data

Takehisa Kodama

Takehisa Kodama

―Please tell us about the use of data in the E&E business.

Kodama: Hitachi got its start in the E&E business long ago, beginning with research and development in the 1920s and delivering its first elevator in 1932. Breaking into the overseas market in the 1950s, Hitachi has since been expanding its shares both domestically and abroad, all the while striving to make its products faster and better.

The more units we provided, the more important it became for us to enhance and streamline maintenance services such as malfunction handling and maintenance inspections. That’s why we set our sights on a remote monitoring service and began monitoring malfunctions in 1987. This service allowed people to remotely ascertain malfunctions and carry out corrective maintenance more quickly. Over the years, we accumulated a lot of data on malfunctions, which we then put to use when we began providing our predictive diagnosis service in 1994. We currently offer an intelligent remote-diagnosis system based on this service.

Kaji: The use of this data on malfunctions meant we could carry out not only corrective maintenance and planned maintenance, but also predictive maintenance and condition-based maintenance, right? The fact that Hitachi’s been working on remote monitoring for more than 30 years—you could say we were at the forefront of that area.

Kodama: Yes, within the industry, we were among the first to achieve remote predictive maintenance. But at first, our predictive diagnosis was not very accurate and we received many requests for improvement from engineers in the field. In response, many departments—such as a research department, a design department, a quality inspection department, a data analysis department, and others—came together and, through a lot of trial and error, eventually developed a cutting-edge system. The latest version of this system identifies warning signs of malfunctions with quite a high degree of accuracy.

Kaji: I see. So, Hitachi has been gathering data from devices and analyzing and applying that data even before the rise of the concept of IoT or the Lumada framework!

Using digital technologies to “visualize, connect, and move”

Yoshimitsu Kaji

Yoshimitsu Kaji

―How did the elevator business evolve with the introduction of Lumada?

Kodama: Previously, we did everything independently, from the collection of elevator data to its analysis. As we began using more and more of Lumada’s digital technologies and tools and working with other business divisions, we were able to create new services and solutions. For example, in 2019, we started providing a dashboard for managing equipment in buildings. With this dashboard, building owners and managers can check and change the operating or maintenance status of elevators from their computer or smartphone. Under the motto of “Visualize, Connect, and Move,” we provide an assortment of services, including those for checking the status of recovery following a widescale disaster, controlling operation—for example, suspending or resuming elevator operation—turning the ceiling fan on or off, configuring the information to be displayed on the LCD indicator in each elevator, and viewing maintenance reports. Through these services and more, we help streamline building management work and ensure a safe, secure, and comfortable environment for users.

Going forward, we plan to expand our services to include those for visualizing the operating status of other equipment in buildings.

Kaji: Those are services that Hitachi is able to provide only because we provide both the elevators themselves as well as the maintenance services for those elevators. Recently, urban disaster prevention has emerged as a social issue, but with these services, I think people will be able to respond swiftly even in the event of a disaster.

Kodama: For example, suppose there’s a building near a river. If the river is at risk of overflowing, the building manager can remotely send the elevator to a higher floor to prevent potential flood damage.

Kaji: Maintenance services that use Lumada’s digital technologies seem like they would be useful in post-disaster recovery efforts too.

Kodama: Right. We’re currently developing a system that would allow field engineers responding to a disaster-impacted region to swiftly make their way through even unfamiliar territory. Specifically, they’d be able to use their smartphones to check information such as the locations of target buildings and how to get into those buildings.

We also offer tablets for maintenance workers. These tablets come with a diagnostic tool that enables even less experienced engineers to promptly identify and locate malfunctions based on sounds, vibrations, or other signs. Developed based on data on over 900,000 malfunctions collected over a span of more than 30 years, the tool can be used not only to handle malfunctions but also to accelerate recovery after a disaster.

Kaji: E&E are an important part of urban infrastructure and, after a disaster, people need them to be back up and running as soon as possible. The key to that speedy recovery is the use of data and digital technologies, which Lumada helps to expand. I think that’s quite significant.

Kodama: In terms of the use of digital technologies, we’ve been using VR*2 and AR*3 to train personnel. In 2019, we began providing safety training for field engineers at a special training center. This training uses VR goggles to simulate accidents involving falls in elevator shafts. We’re also developing an educational system where trainees watch videos about elevators and cautionary points are displayed by using AR.

VR: virtual reality
AR: augmented reality

Improving the value offered by buildings through both hardware and software

―Smart buildings have been attracting a lot of attention recently. Can you tell us about some of your work in that area?

Kodama: Workstyle reforms, the increase in remote work, and other factors have greatly affected the environment surrounding office buildings, and there is demand to improve value through both hardware and software. Amidst the rush to achieve carbon neutrality, we’re seeing growing expectations for smart buildings. For example, people want us to use IoT and other digital technologies to improve user comfort and, at the same time, to streamline building management as a whole and optimize energy use.

With these trends in mind, the Building Systems BU has been developing building platform solutions, aiming to improve value from two angles: building equipment and services. Specifically, these solutions consist of Hitachi’s building IoT solution and Hitachi’s office worker solution. Hitachi’s building IoT solution uses IoT technology to collect data from all sorts of equipment in a building, and visualizes and analyzes information such as the flow of people in the building and the operating status and energy usage status of each piece of equipment. With this solution, we can achieve smart building management and energy optimization. Hitachi’s office worker solution also helps improve the value offered by buildings. Specifically, the solution provides various functions via a smartphone app, including functions for managing entry and exit, reserving a facility, providing information to improve convenience to office workers, and facilitating innovation and exchange.

Kaji: Basically, these two solutions go beyond the scope of the aforementioned dashboard, to provide services for overall building management and even for building users themselves.

Kodama: Right. Since they’re positioned as a platform, they can be linked through Lumada to various other technologies and services offered by the Hitachi Group. That’s their real forte. For example, if we want to link Hitachi’s building IoT solution with a security-incident monitoring function, we can use the image analysis solution developed by the Social Infrastructure Systems BU for use in the public safety field. Similarly, if we need an advanced energy management system, we can link to the Industry & Distribution BU’s energy and equipment management service for factories and commercial facilities, among other things. On the other hand, Hitachi’s office worker solution runs on Lumada’s employee services platform and can be linked with billing and payment information. In the future, we hope to be able to respond to customer needs more quickly by linking with various technologies, such as payment systems that use finger-vein authentication.

Kaji: From the perspective of building users, we obviously want elevators to be properly maintained so we can use them with peace of mind. But it would also be nice if we could, for example, shorten elevator wait times.

Kodama: On that front, we’ve developed the FI-700, an elevator management system with human flow prediction. This system uses AI to analyze data on the flow of people in a building and can reduce average elevator wait times during peak hours by up to 20% compared to its predecessor*4. Apparently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wait times in general have become shorter, but this system can be used for various other purposes to reflect the new normal. For example, the system can analyze data on people flow and then link to another system that guides people away from congested areas in buildings.

Compared to the FI-600 (a predictive group-control elevator system) when controlling the operation of six elevators running at a speed of 150 meters per minute in a 15-story building.

Concept behind Hitachi’s building platform solutions
Concept behind Hitachi’s building platform solutions

Expanding data linkage from buildings to the community at large

―What is the outlook for digital transformation, or DX, with respect to building systems?

Kaji: The Kishida administration has announced its “Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation.” I think, pushing forward with DX for buildings, which make up the infrastructure for both business and our day-to-day lives, is key to bringing to reality a digital society. Furthermore, if we use the Lumada platform to expand data linkage from buildings to the community at large and to other forms of mobility, we can achieve optimization on a greater scale. That, in turn, will give us a better chance of contributing to carbon neutrality and people’s wellbeing.

Through my work as an advisor responsible for the promotion of super cities in Kanagawa Prefecture and as a consultant for Kamakura City’s smart city initiative, I’ve come to realize that smart cities have many stakeholders and thus need a way to connect many different people and groups. Hitachi has been promoting open innovation through its Lumada Alliance Program, a feat that’s only possible precisely because we’re Hitachi. And I think there are high expectations for us to expand DX to smart cities with a focus on building systems.

Kodama: That’s one of our goals as well. With regard to carbon neutrality, too, elevators have always been considered energy-efficient vehicles, accounting for only about three percent of a building’s total energy consumption, but we’re working to achieve further low-carbonization and to create net zero-energy buildings by using Hitachi’s building IoT solution as a platform. By combining Lumada’s IT with OT and products backed by our experience, knowledge, and wealth of data, and by increasing horizontal deployment and collaboration with other departments, we will contribute to social innovation, starting with building systems.

Kaji: Hitachi’s IT, OT, and products are the source of our strength. The building systems business fuses all of those elements, so in a sense, you could say it’s a model business.

Going forward, I hope to see more people using Lumada, an increase in model use cases, and the building systems business resolving social issues by applying the data, experience, and knowledge it’s gained over these many years.

Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were taken prior to the interview and filming.
This dialogue took place in January 2022.
The affiliations and positions of persons in this article are current as of the date of the interview.
Company names, product names, etc., appearing in this article are the trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.