Elevating Design and Functionality for Elevator Control Panels
Elevator buttons are not just functions for floor selection. Today, they're a harmonious mix of art and technology. We take a deep-dive into the future of elevators controls and examine how technology will contribute to the safe, personalized and amazing experiences that await us in vertical travel.
Whether you are going up to the 95th floor of London’s famous landmark building, The Shard, or travelling downwards to an underground subway station in your local city, elevators are an integral part of modern constructions all over the world, providing convenient and efficient vertical transportation for people and goods. Over the years, elevator designs have evolved significantly, offering a wide range of options to suit different building types, architectural styles and user preferences. From classic and traditional design to futuristic and panoramic concepts, elevators inherently contribute to the overall aesthetics and experience of a building.
While design and materials are important choices when designing both the interior or exterior of an elevator, the one thing that all travelers will notice and use, inside and out, are the controls. These essential components play a crucial role in providing a seamless experience for passengers, and with the right artistic consideration towards customization, innovation, and technology, elevator controls can both delight and amaze.
Think Outside the Box
Elevator control panels can be designed using a wide range of aesthetical approaches, from sleek and minimalistic to ornate and luxurious.
For modern and contemporary buildings, elevator control panels often deploy clean lines, minimalist buttons, and LED backlights to create a futuristic ambiance. For classical or heritage buildings, control panels with intricate detailing, vintage buttons, and brass or bronze finishes can be used to complement a timelessly elegant interior.
But real wow-factor comes when manufacturers think outside the box. Say for example, elevator buttons do not need to be buttons at all. Multimedia touchscreens can replace mechanical buttons, providing an interactive experience for passengers where the display can be animated or regularly updated with new visual interfaces and promotional information. Gesture-controlled fixtures could provide an enjoyable alternative to calling the elevator. Smooth glass or luxurious wall paneling could be made interactive with no mechanical components at all. Or even holographic projections could be made functional to allow passengers to make their floor selection in mid-air.
These ideas might sound like concepts for the metaverse, but the cutting-edge technology which can empower these types of futuristic elevator controls is already a very real reality.
The question is, how will manufacturers leverage the technology to produce elevator controls of the future?
Holographic Elevator Panels
Holographic elevator panels are sure-fire way to impress passengers and are by far one of the most progressively modern ways to control the ride. Instead of traditional elevator tapes, holographic images can be projected into mid-air where users can interact with the floating projections by waving their hands in front of it or touching the virtual buttons.
These magical holographic experiences are achievable by using mirrored projection plates which redirect light emanating from a hidden LCD display to create a floating image of the panel or buttons. Interaction is then made possible when coupled with Neonode’s Touch Sensor Module, which uses invisible infrared lasers to detect ‘touches’ on the image when a user interacts with precise areas of the projected in-air interface.
In addition to being extremely cool and futuristic, holographic elevator panels also offer practical benefits. For one, they are more hygienic than traditional button panels since there are no physical buttons to touch, reducing the risk of germ transmission. They also eliminate the need for replacement of physical buttons due to wear and tear.
Modern Holographic Elevator Control Panels made possible with Neonode IR Technology
Art in Motion
While complimenting elevator buttons with holograms is one way to create an impact, what if visible controls could be removed all together, and replaced with nothing except engraved mirrored panels, panoramic glass, or artistic wall cladding?
With clever integration of reflective infrared technology, elevator designers can make any surface in the elevator interactive. Neonode’s Touch Sensor Module can provide a fast and effective way to give responsive and accurate interactive touch capabilities to non-digital façades using infrared light. These cutting-edge sensor modules perceive touches anywhere and on anything by projecting an invisible light field over a desired surface then detect the X and Y coordinates of any light reflections made when an object, like a pointed finger, enters the active area. Touch Sensor Modules are just 3mm thick so they can be stealthily embedded into the elevator walls for projection over surfaces like etched glass, metal, wood or even creative wall murals.
Example of an ornate elevator at Chanel flagship store in NYC, designed by artist Peter Dayton. Photo credit: peterdayton.com
Touchless Buttons and Interactive Displays
While the trend of holographic and buttonless elevators is on the rise, pardon the pun, buttons are not going away any time soon, nor should they. Stylish mechanical buttons offer familiarity and can act as a key design feature in the elevator car.
When modernizing existing elevators, retaining the original controls can also save time and money, but that doesn’t mean their enhancement should be disregarded. Smartly packaged technology can quickly and easily be retrofitted to transform existing mechanical or digital elevator buttons into contactless experiences.
One great example of this is offered by Dewhurst, an independent and global supplier of high quality elevator components, who created an off-the-shelf retrofit solution called the Halo Touchless Car Operating System which is based on Neonode technology. It allows for extremely fast integration of touchless technology and with its standalone nature, is perfect for retrofitting with minimal aesthetic intrusion on existing designs. When placed beside pushbuttons or digital displays, the system actively monitors the area above the controls and is programmed to register calls when the user hovers their finger in front of the button.
Retrofitting contactless touch technology is both a cost-effective way of updating existing elevators with the latest modern conveniences and is also a great solution for preserving historic façades or unique features in uncommon or heritage buildings.
Multimedia Contactless Elevator Panel by Dewhurst
Personalizing the Elevator Experience
Whether it is a modernization of an existing elevator or a brand new design, customization is a growing trend for the buttons themselves, particularly in private residences, hotels and retail stores. Personalized buttons allow architects to create a more unique and tailored experience. Property owners can choose to have branded push buttons which are made in specific colors or finishes, and even fabricate bespoke shapes and sizes which adds a sense of exclusivity.
Working closely with designers, architects and elevator manufacturers, our partners at Dewhurst have recently developed some fantastic custom controls for some distinguished establishments. For example, for a world-leading luxury hotel group, Dewhurst developed the Mayfair button, which combines a mix of primary-colored buttons with bold illumination on a stainless-steel silver legend plate. In New York, they developed a marble-based hall call button for a luxury jewelry store on Fifth Avenue which complimented the brand colors and luxury feel, while in London a singular button was designed for a privately owned hidden elevator garage which houses the customers Porsche sports car.
Personalized buttons for luxury car elevator garages.
In addition to bespoke physical designs, proptech experts can achieve even greater personalization by blending elevator controls with other smart digital systems. Just imagine an office building elevator that combined the information from personal access cards or facial recognition with corporate scheduling systems. The elevator could then be transformed into a digital assistant of sorts, where voice-overs greet individual passengers with messages like “Welcome Mr. Smith. Your next meeting starts in 5 minutes and is located in the corporate auditorium located on the twelfth floor. Transporting you there now”.
Designing the Main Attraction
Innovative and well-designed elevators can often become the main attraction. Take the Bailong double-decker elevator in China for example, which scales 326 meters up a cliff face in the middle of Zhangjiajie National Park and holds the record for the world’s tallest, or the elevator in the Empire State Building that skyrockets passengers to the 86th floor in less than a minute.
While not every building will become the host of an elevator tourist attraction, innovating with leading technologies definitely helps to delight passengers, and will also add extra value and style to buildings and properties, not to mention the occasional subway or nature reserve.
Bailong Elevator, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China.