Destination unknown: control systems for vertical transport

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12 May 2021

MGAC Access Consultant Sam Dikstein takes a closer look at the history and benefits of destination control, and how it can be further improved for the modern era using the tenets of universal design.

By Sam Dikstein

Optimisation sits of the core of destination control (DC) systems. When waiting for an elevator, a passenger chooses the desired floor from the call terminal. Upon arrival of the car, it takes the passenger or group of passengers directly to the right level according to an algorithm, optimising the efficiency of the transport system in terms of wait times and energy saving.

More recently, this optimisation technique has become the implemented system of choice in new buildings and those undertaking lift upgrades to ensure greater flow for buildings with high user traffic.

MGAC Access Consultant Sam Dikstein takes a closer look at the history and benefits of destination control, and how it can be further improved for the modern era using the tenets of universal design.


Destination control: a brief history
Destination control is not a new concept. In fact, destination control for vertical transport was first invented by a Sydney engineer named Port in the early 1960s. Interestingly, the name ‘PORT’ has now been used as an acronym for ‘Personal Occupant Requirement Terminal’.

In 1965, E.A. Johnson invented the first prototype of what we now call the touchscreen. With the proliferation of the iPhone in 2007, touchscreens soon became the norm throughout society. For destination control, the touchscreen is an essential component of a fully integrated system. Along with keypads and proximity cards, touchscreens allow for immediate direction of an appropriate elevator car to respond to a passenger’s request for travel.

However, further advances were required in the modern era of buildings and passenger traffic flow.


Need for destination control advances
During the early days of destination control, it was difficult to optimise lift performance due to the technological limitations of older style elevators. Now, thanks to the advances with microprocessors, there is greater opportunity to optimise elevator performance in terms of waiting and transit time.

The use of touchscreen technology – combined with destination control systems for vertical transport in large buildings – is a unique collaboration of technology aimed at delivering a premium user experience.

Despite these advances, the integration is not truly seamless, especially from an accessibility perspective. However, with the application of universal design principles, there is opportunity to further enhance and diversify these systems.


Destination control and accessibility issues
Those who experience vision impairment are the most likely to encounter barriers when using a destination control system. Although destination control systems do provide an accessible option, their programming and location of raised tactile buttons often vary greatly. This often results in an inconsistent or inconvenient experience for the user.

For example, in larger buildings with over 30 floors, the wait time for the audible sequence of available floors can be inordinately fast. Often times, the announcement of a floor can be missed by those relying on sound alone for a cue. If this happens and the elevator is missed, the sequence must start over, inevitably frustrating the user.

According to AS1735.12, 2020 Annex C (e), “an accessibility button shall be placed adjacent to the touch screen preferably below, for activating the verbal announcements and floor selection”. As we see it, a more rigorous standardisation of the system should be mandatory for all destination control system. However, with so many different lift installation companies having installed the equipment prior to the 2020 standard, this is fast becoming unmanageable.

Thankfully, we can turn to universal design to guide us to greater improvements.


Incorporating universal design into destination control

For one, appropriate training has to be a key consideration to ensure universal understanding of destination control. Specifically, building staff and users who require enhanced orientation should be provided with training specific to the customisation of the system to suit certain accessibility needs. As such, the development of an accessibility specific management plan should be implemented by key stakeholders and building personnel.

This can include staff training to:

·      summarise the accessibility features and how they can be customised for individuals with accessibility needs for enhanced usage

·      assist visitors and staff with accessibility needs who are using the DC system for the first time, including via online tutorials

·      communicate key features of the system to ensure functional, equitable, dignified, and independent use of the lifts

·      provide regular training to tenants on lift operation and how it can be customised by individuals.

There is great potential for a destination control system to assist those with accessibility needs beyond the traditional lift call and internal lift panel design. However, successful implementation of a better system for all users relies on better technology training and communication. With these elements in place, there’s greater opportunity to not only comply with the performance requirements of the NCC, but also meet the ‘reasonable adjustment’ provisions of the DDA.

If implemented appropriately, the features of the destination system can achieve any buildings key accessibility outcomes – a result we’re always trying to strive for at MGAC.

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