Remote Control for an Elevator

Electric_Imp_elevator_hack_overview

The elevator at [Alex]’s office building has some quirks which make it very inconvenient to everyone in the building. The major problem was that the doors of the elevator at each floor stay locked until someone walks down the hall to hit a button. Obviously this was a hassle, so [Alex] built a controller that can remotely call and unlock the elevator. (Part 2 of the project is located on a separate page.)

The first step was to source the hardware and figure out exactly how the controls for the elevator worked. [Alex] decided to use an Electric Imp for this project, and after getting it connected to the Internet, he realized that he could power it directly off of the elevator’s 10V supply. From there, he used relays to interface the Electric Imp with the “elevator call” and “elevator unlock” buttons inside the elevator’s control panel.

Once the hardware side was completed, it was time to move on to the software side. [Alex] wrote a mobile app for a user interface that can be accessed from anywhere, and also wrote the code for the Electric Imp agent and the code that runs on the Electric Imp itself. Now, a simple tap of a button on a mobile device is enough to call the elevator or unlock it, rather than in the past where someone had to run down a hall to hit the button.

We hope there is some security on the mobile app, otherwise anyone in the world will be able to call the elevator and turn it into a passenger-less useless machine!

32 thoughts on “Remote Control for an Elevator

  1. Beware of code violations… Rules are different depending where you are. There are a *&%t-ton of safeties in place to make sure everyone that gets on is safe from harm. You may be altering one of those safeties…

      1. This certainly is a no-no in France. Only certified techs are allowed to touch anything inside the elevator, for good reasons.

        Don’t replicate this, kids, it will save you a hefty fine and potential injury.

    1. As others have stated, this is against most building codes and would make the Fire Marshal very unhappy… Powering unapproved equipment off the elevator power supplies is also a major issue/concern. If the equipment shorts out the elevator control power supply one could be liable for all the repairs to the elevator system…. which is major $$$.
      Adding to all this is that Elevator Floor access security is now at risk… wow…

    2. Next up in the code violation list is the ADA. Seriously, it takes exactly one ADA complain to fine you in to oblivion. If the guy in a wheeled chair claims your device is an unfair advantage (see close door button (ADA 4.10.7) and the below math), your screwed.

      T = D/(1.5 ft/s) or T = D/(445 mm/s)

      Beyond the legal ignorance, nice job solving an annoyance. Everyone in the building can get the app, and this is key for getting buy-in for this kind of hack. If you did this, but giving access to 3 close friends, sorry pal, no hack for you.

          1. Actually, I’m American. I was reading the source link and misread the name of the city they were in, confusing it for an UK city. Then I saw the comment further down about the text in the pictures being Swedish (I hadn’t bothered to expand any of the images).

    3. The text on the elevator is written in Swedish, and Swedish law requires that elevators are inspected once a year. Before an elevator is used the first time, or if it is changed, an approved company has to do an inspection. There’s nothing wrong with modifying an existing elevator and have that inspected (=how would they know it wasn’t inspected after modification?).

      My guess is that if an inspector spots this, they won’t care, but if they have a bad day at work they might give you a warning. If you don’t fix it and continue to operate the elevator, someone from the government will come and make you shut it down. If you still continue to operate it, you might get a fine which is probably not higher than $500.

      If you unerstand Swedish, the entire law can be read here (it’s more about emergency brakes etc.):
      https://rinfo.boverket.se/H%5CPDF%5CBFS2012-11-H14.pdf

      1. Edit: Well, the only thing that’s wrong here is really that you modified the elevator and operated it without inspecting it. Upon inspection, I don’t think they can say anything really – I mean, by Swedish standards, there’s nothing unsafe about it (no US bullshit). And operating it with such a minor modification without inspection would, in practice, probably not render any legal issues at all, but more like a “ok, that’s bad, think about it next time”.

  2. I don’t get it.
    I mean, I don’t say it’s not a neat hack, but…what’s the point with the doors of the elevator being locked? does it mean they are closed even at the flor where the elevator is at the moment?

    1. Yes – this is not un-common in shared office buildings; the elevator doesn’t allow you to access the floor unless someone already on that floor gives the okay by unlocking the door.

    2. I too am confused. I’ve never seen an elevator like that. Many ones have key cards that you have to swipe to get off at a floor, which is ideal. Why would you require someone to unlock the elevator for you at the floor? What if they’re all busy? If you can take the stairs anyway, how is this in any way secure in the first place? So confused.

    3. This is common for OLD or even retrofit style lifts. My old apartment building had a lift, but you HAD to call the elevator before the door lock relay would allow you to open the door. Those same relays are what keep people on the 3rd floor from opening the door to an empty shaft.

      For the old style systems with relay logic, this is normal.

  3. As someone who is (irrationally) afraid of elevators, I would never ride on this. Ever. Nice hack, but my deep-seated fear of these flying coffins would never allow me to enjoy it.

  4. according to what i gathered about swedish elevator law,
    couldnt he just build his own SBC controller from scratch
    and get it inspected ???

    cuz if its only the logic…

    and includes safetys like WDT, BOR, RFI, EMC, wiring harness loose detection ect
    maybe even differential logic.
    all to protect against haywire(s)

    1. if the sensor SHOULD either output a 1 on wire1 OR wire2 and if it gets a 1 or 0 on both, then activate brakes and shutdown / alarm

      if you only have one wire you cant tell the difference between
      open and closed-with-wire-broken

  5. If you try this in NYC, you’ll be arrested. Elevator safety is actually a huge concern of the Dept of Buildings here; all you need is one open shaft and you’ll be facing criminal negligence charges. And Riker’s is no joke.

  6. So if this all against code, then how do existing elevator access control systems work? I’ve seen a lot of off-the-shelf badge readers and keys being used both in the cab and on the call panels.

    I’m wondering if there’s a standard way of hooking into an elevator system that doesn’t involve hacking directly into the panels. There’s got to be a right way to do what the OP is doing, even if it means buying an expensive interface module from the manufacturer.

      1. That’s great, but I’m not comfortable with the idea of accidentally walking into an open elevator shaft if the hack does something wrong. If there’s a manufacturer approved way, then (likely, hopefully) it involves putting distance between the critical bits and any add-ons.

  7. So (hack aside) how does an elevator like this work in a fire, earthquake or power outage?
    If you are stopped at a floor can you just lever the door open (from the inside) even if it is “locked” (as one would on a normal elevator).
    If there is nobody on the outside to unlock the door are you just trapped?

    Seems like a good incentive to get more exercise by using the stairs.

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