HoloLinc – the Mixed Reality revolution on the staircase

Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | Engineering | innovation | From the first on-site visit at home to the installation of a stairlift, it often takes over two months – at least in the past. With HoloLinc we simplify the process considerably. And not only help our engineers, but above all our end customers, for they can see their proposed lift even before it is installed in the stairwell – thanks to Mixed Reality technology.

Reduced mobility or not: Most people want to live at home also in old age. This is quite understandable – after all, staying in our own homes makes a significant contribution to our quality of life, especially in the second part of life. In an increasingly aging society, however, the justified desire for self-determination and mobility is becoming a real challenge, particularly in front of our own home’s stairs.

A stairlift is often the most practical solution when it comes to tackling everyday barriers within your own four walls. The principle is quite simple: a chair moves along a rail attached to the staircase via a gear mechanism. The user controls the movement via remote control. We at thyssenkrupp sell and install around 30,000 such systems in Europe every year – and the trend is rising: In 2060, for every 100 people of working age in Germany, for example, there will be 65 people aged 65 and over. Today the figure is only 37.

Installing stairlift systems: tailormade and time-consuming – until now

While spectacular stair lifts like the one in the Makkah Clock Tower in Saudi Arabia winds up a 27-meter-long rail at a height of 601 meters with a total of seven turns, classic solutions for private households are mostly simple installations over just one floor. But here, too, the art of engineering is in demand. Although some manufacturers rely on prefabricated components in order to install their products as quickly as possible, this often means that the ride is far less comfortable than with a custom-made lift.

Our engineers therefore not only pay attention to the physical characteristics of the customer but also take into account the structural and static properties of the staircase. Thus, each of our stairlift systems is virtually unique. From the planning to the final installation of the stairlift, however, it usually takes our engineers at least ten weeks – including two on-site appointments and complex planning.

HoloLinc: seeing your stairlift before it’s installed

Well, the times of complex stairlift installations are over now – thanks to our HoloLinc data goggles. It shortens the delivery time to two weeks because the sales employee on-site can measure the entire stairwell with just one visit. “We are simplifying the measurement of the staircases and offering our customers the unique service of being able to directly view an image of how the planed lift will look on their staircase,” says project manager Simon Feismann, explaining the advantages of the innovative digital process.

But what exactly does the term “HoloLinc” mean? Well, “Holo” stands for the used data glasses called HoloLens. “Linc” describes their connection with the system’s intelligent planning software. Planning takes place in two steps: First, our sales representative precisely measures all the details of the customer’s staircase. In the second step, the collected data is transferred to Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure and can finally be visualized, either in the data glasses or on a tablet. This allows us to show the customer directly what the proposed lift will look like at home.

Because the technology used is easy to understand and intuitive, our sales staff can record the necessary data quickly and routinely, explains Feismann. “And customers are truly amazed when they are able to sit in their own home and see what the lift will look like on their staircase and how it will work.” Thanks to this direct representation via Augmented Reality, potential customers in many cases lose their initial “shyness” about installing a stairlift.

Mission digitalization: HoloLinc as a first step

Three years ago, our engineers were already considering how this lengthy process could be automated and accelerated. Together with our partner companies Microsoft and Zühlke, they linked mixed-reality technology with a cloud-based configurator. The result is HoloLinc. After the rollout in many European countries, our engineers now have the digital equipment at hand to literally take the world of stairlifts to the next level.

Together with Microsoft and Zühlke, however, we want to continue the digitalization of the stairlift business. Our goal: a completely digitalized production chain, from the first measurement to production – supported by artificial intelligence and other automated processes, for example for the design of the stairlifts. The foundation stone has been laid.

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