wireless emergency phonesBuilding owners often pay hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars each month for the multiple phone lines that ensure communications in their multiple elevators. During an emergency, passengers rely on these elevator phones in case of entrapment or an emergency. They’re a necessary expense, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to reduce your operating costs for the elevator communications system in your high-rise building?

Currently, almost every emergency elevator phone in the United States is connected to a traditional, wired phone line as part of the system’s emergency communications system. Until recently, building owners had no choice – there were no economical or practical alternatives to these traditional methods of elevator communication.

Moving forward, however, high-rise buildings will all but eliminate traditional, wired telecommunications in the future. There are several factors driving this movement. First, cellular and wireless telecommunications are replacing traditional wired phone lines by the millions every year in the United States in almost every application. Over the last decade, there have also been big changes in the requirements for how elevator emergency communications and emergency phones must work. At the same time, there has been a mass migration away from traditional phone lines and toward cellular and VoIP alternatives for voice communications. Traditional, wired phone lines have become harder to get, harder to maintain, and more expensive for the end-user. Wireless and GSM (global systems for mobile) are becoming the standard: they’re more reliable, easier to install, and much more cost effective.

elevator phonesFor building owners, the future of wireless GSM has arrived. With improvements to GSM technology and the decrease it offers in operating costs, wireless GSM technology is quickly replacing traditional, wired phone lines for elevator communications. Wireless GSM elevator phone lines are now a much more practical solution when compared to traditional phone lines for both new and existing elevator communication systems.

GSM technology allows dedicated phone lines for individual elevators. This gives each elevator an independent communication path that is completely isolated. Wireless GSM elevator phone lines work by providing an interface for the elevator cab’s analog elevator phone to the outside world. Once a passenger presses the HELP button inside the elevator cab, a direct connection is made through the elevator phone line interface to a monitoring center that is staffed 24 hours a day. Two-way voice communication and call acknowledgment signals can then be sent and received. The passengers inside the elevator won’t even notice that what they’re using isn’t a traditional phone line connection. Battery back-up and remote monitoring meet (and sometime exceed) all the requirements set forth by national and local elevator codes.

GSM technology has been used by commercial buildings in Europe for years. It is used in the United States as well, but is seen most often in the fire alarm industry to monitor fire panels; it’s also common in the security industry. Built-in redundancies, offsite testing, and remote monitoring have all made wireless communications more reliable in these industries, and it’s doing the same for vertical transportation. The ability to monitor, in real time, the operability of each elevator phone in a given building reduces the failure rate when an emergency elevator phone is needed most.

Practicality and pricing are the most attractive features of wireless GSM elevator phone lines. Unlike traditional phone lines, a wireless GSM line can be mounted in the elevator machine room in a matter of hours. No wires or expensive conduit needs to be run from the elevator machine room to the telephone room. Instead, the phone line is installed inside the machine room and piped directly into the main elevator control system. This saves the owner thousands of dollars on the front end, and eliminates hours of labor during installation.

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington owns ESRM Communications, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL (www.ESRMphones.com).