KONE, a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, has announced the development of a new tech solution designed to enable wheelchair users to navigate modern buildings more easily by connecting elevators and wheelchairs.
The connected wheelchair concept is being developed following its selection as the winning idea from KONE's DX Experiments competition, launched in January 2021 to identify new innovative ideas on what to connect to an elevator. The competition attracted 460 new ideas.
It will enable a wheelchair to be integrated and connected to KONE's elevators via its API (application programming interface) platform, allowing it to also work with other applications within a smart building management system.
The winning idea came from a French entrant and was inspired by the difficulties faced by care home residents when moving around the facility. The innovative concept aims to aid mobility and building navigation reducing waiting times and friction, allowing users' wheelchairs to alert an elevator to their arrival or schedule an elevator when they need, taking them to the correct floor.
The technology is being created to work with smart wheelchairs or as a solution which can be retrofitted to existing wheelchairs. The design could mean that in the future, facilities such as care homes or other smart buildings could produce a better on-demand service for wheelchair users.
Five-time Finnish Paralympic gold medal winning sprinter Leo-Pekka Tähti, an advocate for better inclusivity and accessibility for the disabled community in the built environment, is acting as a consultant as the design is developed. Despite being the world's fastest man in a wheelchair, Tähti is often slowed down by inconsiderate building design.
He said: "Wheelchair users know how frustrating it can be trying to get around in a world that hasn't taken their needs into account. Being delayed because an elevator is full or because we are held up by inaccessible design can become another daily frustration that wheelchair users have to allow for."
"We become experts at adapting to fit into a world that wasn't designed with us in mind. Although improvements have been made, we need urgent investment and innovation in the built environment sector so that wheelchair users can move around our public spaces and buildings with independence. The connected wheelchair concept offers us a glimpse at what is possible when society invests, innovates and commits to improving the day-to-day lives of wheelchair users."
According to the World Health Organization, 75 million people require a wheelchair on a daily basis, and a further 1.7 billion are impacted by blindness and visual impairment. This highlights the need for technologies which can provide a more supportive and inclusive environment whether at home, office or in a care facility.
Maciej Kranz, Chief Technology Officer at KONE said: "The KONE DX Experiments competition has been a great example of what we can achieve through collaboration, partnership and working with our market leading connected solutions. We would like to thank all of those who entered, highlighting a wealth of innovative opportunities.
"The winning concept will start with a wheelchair connected to a KONE DX Class elevator, and with our platform it can be expanded further, as we continue to explore how we can make smart urban environments work for everyone. There are almost no limits to what we can do, using our existing technology we can connect to almost anything, making creative solutions like this possible."
The KONE DX Experiments competition focused on how KONE DX Class elevators, alongside our technology and innovation could make people flow in buildings even smoother and more accessible.
The criteria for entries focused on originality, innovative thinking, and usefulness, as well as the feasibility to deliver a working version of the solution. This reflects KONE's mission to improve the flow of urban life, creating smarter, more sustainable cities together with its customers.
The winner was selected from entries for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions by a panel of KONE's leadership team members. The competition will continue in the Asia-Pacific region.
Development work will start immediately, with the innovation available for testing later this summer.