By Angelo D’Urso
Driven by legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in the U.S. and other anti-discrimination laws in the European Union, most vehicles used in public transportation in advanced nations are equipped with at least one form of accessible entry to ensure mobility rights of all passengers.
The automotive industry is evolving vehicle design to become increasingly more intelligent and interconnected with mobile devices, yet manufacturers of accessible products such as ramps, inboard, underfloor lifts and steps have not succeeded in creating a truly “smart” accessibility solution. Most of these companies still compete, as they have in the past five decades.
Their focus is primarily in developing different platform sizes, using lighter materials such as aluminum, and making products safer and more durable. However, three different lift components are often overlooked by the industry that are proven to make a dramatic difference in lift performance in the field. Mobility Networks, a European manufacturer of mobility solutions, with headquarters in Kent, United Kingdom, has investigated and developed new possibilities for solving some of the most familiar challenges faced by passengers and operators of accessible lifts.
The first challenge is making lifts smarter and more reliable. The Internet of Things (IoT), or the interconnectivity of “smart devices” in which data is collected and exchanged, is a technology used in many industries to connect devices to the internet or each other with the goal of improving efficiency. An example of this is a transportation network in a “smart city”. But, as yet, IoT has not yet been widespread in accessible devices, something Mobility Networks seeks to address. Invariably striving to positively impact how passengers and operators use and interact with its accessible lifts, Mobility Networks has developed the world exclusive Monitors Diagnostic System, a cutting-edge wireless, Bluetooth Diagnostic System that allows for an immediate inspection of the lift operating conditions with possible troubleshooting solutions. This innovation greatly assists fleet operators in keeping vehicles on the road, and maintaining a high level of safety at all times by offering an “ambient intelligence.” This supports the Mobility Networks’ service team in understanding how the lifts are used, making them more effective, and anticipating solutions for possible failures, which is in turn implemented in its product development process for ongoing improvement of safety and reliability.
The second, and one of the main concerns for fleet managers, is lift durability. Accessible lifts are an important part of the daily lives of individuals with reduced mobility across the world, and they are expected, in many cases, to last a minimum of seven years or longer to maximize initial investment. In addition to an innovative diagnostic system, Mobility Networks also takes the quality of finish in to account when developing durable lifts, which directly impacts durability. Using lower standard paint finish is a frequent oversight by lift manufacturers, leaving lifts exposed to the elements, and thus, massively reducing its lifespan. Mobility Networks, however, uses one of the highest grades of paint finish, the IP67 Protection Finish (International Protection marking, drawn up by the International Electromechanical Commission, IEC), a standard for complete protection and resistance to water and other elements. IP67 is only one grade before the IP68 that issued mainly in the military industry.
The third and last integral part in the day to day use of lifts is in the usability of hand controls. To avoid warranty claims, and vehicles being off the road, Mobility Networks has also developed an aircraft quality Pluggable Hand Control which is pre-wired, offering instant replacement for immediate usage. By taking advantage of these, at times, underrated technologies, lift operators and fleet managers can obtain a superior return on investment made on accessible lifts, as well as provide a secure and pleasant lifting experience to all passengers.
Angelo D’Urso is CEO of Mobility Networks North America.