Smart Mobility

Are our buildings slowing us down? Cities in the sky open new avenues for urban mobility

Think of urban growth like this: a city the size of Manhattan is being built every single day. And much of that growth is vertical – and tall. Since 2000, the number of 200+ meter skyscrapers being built has tripled. In 2018, 160 new skyscrapers will enter service all over the world. But these majestic monuments to modernity are also cul-de-sacs of mobility – “mobility silos.” People enter them at ground level and take an elevator up to their floor. To leave, they have to reverse the process. To go to the same floor of another building just 50 meters away, they might have to travel a kilometer – down, over, and then up again.
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Published on 13.11.2018

Cities in the sky

thyssenkrupp Elevator experts think it should be easier to move from the top floor of one building to the top floor of another. The company recently detailed their vision in Lisbon, Portugal, at the celebrated Web Summit conference – the world’s largest technology event.

Experts believe that we now have all the components necessary to actually build “cities in the sky.”

Remember: the skyscrapers are already there. All that’s left to do is to connect these solid but solitary towers – at various heights – and thereby create a more mobile, multi-layered city that allows us to move both vertically and horizontally, without having to retrace our steps every time.

 
Cities in the Sky

Victims of their own success?

It’s not that conventional skyscrapers are outdated. It’s just that we now have the technological means to expand their functionality. The same goes for elevators. Without them, we wouldn’t have tall buildings. But if we only think of them as something that goes up and down, we’re limiting their potential. That is, no matter how fast and efficiently they can move vertically, they’re still caught in the vertical mobility silo.

Or are they? “Yes, and no.” experts say. Yes, because the trap is real, but the problem is mainly in our minds, in how we think about buildings and cities. No, because things have really changed, and it’s now possible for us – and elevators – to move beyond the restrictions of the silo.

This is important, and we need to open our minds to what our technology can now finally do, mainly because the megatrend of mass urbanization and its effects are creating street-level logjams to the free flow of movement in our own cities. We’re slowing ourselves down – but we don’t have to.

The sky city infrastructure

Skybridges, skyways and skyplanes (elevated boulevards or fields) can provide the horizontal ligaments connecting the vertical bones of the new urban skeleton. The recent Skybridge conference in Dubai highlighted how far skybridge technology has come, and what it can now do.

To put it another way: skybridges are the new streets in the sky. These “horizon-scrapers” add elevated parallels to the perpendicular of the conventional skyscraper. Working together, they create the superstructure for new levels of urban life.

From elevator to MULTI-vator

If skybridge-connected skyscrapers are the form of the sky city, then human activity is the content. And what enables that human element to flow freely though this futuristic built environment is not the elevator, but something new: the MULTI system.

More than an elevator, the “MULTI” is designed to make transportation as easy at 50 stories as it is on the street. Maybe even easier. Because MULTI uses linear motor technology that allows elevators to travel limitless distances without stopping.

But the truly revolutionary aspect of MULTI is that it can move both vertically and horizontally. And it’s easy to see ­how new mid-air streets linking skyscrapers at several levels would reduce traffic congestion on the ground, and improve the flow of people and goods throughout the metropolis.

Web Summit Future Cities

MULTI means many

As the name implies, the implications of MULTI are many. Combining horizontal with vertical movement means that the built environment can be radically reimagined. The design and construction of new buildings and cities will change, as architects and urban planners incorporate the new technology into their work.

In the meantime, MULTI already offers more conventional benefits, as well. For instance, it currently provides a 50% increase in transport capacity, while simultaneously reducing the elevator footprint in buildings. MULTI is already in operation at the thyssenkrupp elevator test tower in Rottweil, Germany, and will make its commercial debut at the East Side tower in Berlin in 2021.

The ripple effect

True technological innovations affect the world far beyond their primary area of use. For example, the creation of the smart mobile device completely changed how we communicate. That caused a ripple effect for the entire world of work, play and community. In a similar manner, the invention of the multi-directional MULTI will irrevocably alter how we live and move about in our cities. And the ultimate effects of that will be amazing.

 
Web Summit 2018

Web Summit started as a simple idea: to connect the technology community with all industries, old and new. The idea resonated, and Web Summit has grown to become the largest technology conference in the world.

The summit in Lisbon offers an elevated view of the future

The Web Summit in Lisbon brings together many of the best and the brightest in the world of technology. Every year, participants discuss revolutionary new developments that will reshape the world in the years ahead. This year, they will be discussing cities in the sky, and how a new type of elevator – like the original elevator long ago – will help us to overcome the challenges of urban growth, and move more boldly, more quickly, and more freely into the future.