Comments: Lift game theory

You'd have loved it at HSBC, then. I worked in their big building in Docklands earlier this year and found the lifts fascinating. Much more interesting than my actual job there, although that probably says more about working for a bank than it says about lifts.

Over 40 or so floors, the lifts come in banks. All lifts stop at the ground floor but then only cover a limited range of upper floors. To get from, say, the 11th floor where I worked to the 33rd floor, you would have a choice of routes, all of which would involve changing lift at some point.

The upper floor lifts had a top speed of something like 7 metres per second, according to the display screens inside. It was quite amusing to see the display screens blue-screen-of-death'ed on occasion. Didn't seem to affect lift operation, luckily.

Don't know how the lift software worked but I suspect it was some kind of evolutionary or neural net type program.

It did often work out better to miss a crowded lift and get the next. That strategy could just as easily fail, though, if a load of people get in the lift you've waited for. Or if everyone in the lift busy lift gets off at the same floor - more likely than you'd think, given that often groups of colleagues travel together to meetings, lunch, etc.

Other variables are that some floors are far more popular than others (eg gym vs trading floor vs canteen); certain times of day (eg lunch time) are busier than others; upper bank lifts are faster than lower bank lifts (no idea why)

Anyway, I used to get a kind of perverse enjoyment out of being able to just wedge my foot in the door of a nearly-departed lift and seeing all the ever so polite bankers trying to restrain themselves from tutting and muttering out loud. :-)

Posted by Adrian at October 11, 2005 17:26

In Takashimaya (massive 14 storey department store) in Shinjuku you enter on the 2nd floor (with 3 floors below you) and the first set of lifts are so busy you are always better off taking the first available lift, even if it's going down. In fact, if you can be bothered, the escalator is faster still for the first 8 or 10 floors. What happens is the lift arrives on the 2nd floor full of people coming up from the 3 floors below it, or it stops on the way down, or it misses the floor entirely because the lift detects it's too full to take any more passengers. Basically it's very annoying because I only ever want to go to HMV or the restauarants on the top three floors :-/

Posted by Nik Makepeace at October 15, 2005 10:03
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