How Elevators Can Inspire IT

Epiphanies arrive unexpectedly, and inspiration can come from anywhere. Chirag Mehta, a SAP employee and IT blogger, found hope in an innovative elevator system.

While visiting in Brazil, Mehta got to see a new type of elevator at work. As he writes in his blog, today’s elevator systems are quite dumb. They don’t know what floor you need to go to or when there are too many people crowding the elevator. The new elevator system, however, was smarter, more dynamic and demanded less from the user.

In this new elevator, Mehta explains, there was a common button panel in the lobby where the rider indicates which floor he or she wants to go to. The panel then indicates which car the rider should get into to reach their desired floor. Once the rider is inside the elevator, there are no buttons to press. The system takes care of the rest.

For Mehta, the parallels between this optimization and infrastructure optimization are clear:

This is how I want ALL the systems to be — smart, adaptive, and dynamic. Just like this elevator, I would like to see the systems, especially the cloud and the analytics, to anticipate the needs of the end users as opposed to following their commands.

The context is the key to the success of delivering what users would expect. If the systems are designed to inquire about the context — directly or indirectly, just like asking people to push buttons before they get into an elevator — they would perform more intelligently.

Some location-based systems have started to explore this idea, but it’s just the beginning. This also has significant impact on designing collaborative recommendation systems that could help the end users find the right signal in the ever increasing noise of social media.

For more on Mehta’s analysis of dynamic systems, read the full story on his blog, Cloud Computing.