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One of the most renowned science-fiction writers, H. G. Wells, predicted more than one hundred years ago the emergence of automatic doors. In his novel When The Sleeper Wakes, the author mentions an automatic door rolling upwards. If H. G. Wells lived today and was aware of the latest technological progresses, his imagination and intelligence would certainly make him guess correctly how automatic doors will be in the future.

Because the uses and applications of the technology that is currently being developed will have a great impact on how automatic doors will be in the coming years. For instance, new tools and applications will enable to open the door of your house simply by pushing a button on your smartphone. This way, the so-called traditional door becomes an automatic door just by making use of a smart lock connected to the mobile phone.

It will also be possible to apply such control via smartphone in office buildings, for instance. The objective is for the door that it stops being an isolated element and becomes integrated into the building and its technological and control infrastructure, thus reducing exploitation and maintenance costs.

In this regard, another technology will hasten to add much more, and it will undoubtedly affect the development of automatic doors in the future, the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is the digitalisation of the physical world. Objects will connect to each other and the Internet, and will offer all types of data in real time. This involves a revolution in the relationships between objects and the people. Applied to automatic doors, it will connect all the systems of a building, lifts, entry and exit systems, sensors, lighting… In this way, for instance, the building will recognise users and save their usual movements, and when they leave the office, it will send a notice to the lift, which will await them with its doors opened, and while it takes them down, the system will send a signal to notice that automatic doors have to open because someone is about to leave the building.

Another example of how automatic doors will be in the future has to do with the sensors of these doors. The University of Electro-Communications in Chōfu (Japan) is working on the design of more intelligent sensors, which will detect whether we really need to come in or we are only nearby. The system will be equipped with a 3D laser sensor that will scan the entrance and not only detects people, but is also able to know if they are looking toward the door, keep track of their movements and deducing if they need to come in. Besides, the system will also notice the speed and will open the doors more or less quickly, or the opening will be wider if a group needs to come in. This way, it is intended to offer a better service, higher safety and make the building more sustainable as well.

The development of new products and technologies in this area has an impact on the improvement of functional features, safety, maintenance, usability and energy efficiency. As regards energy efficiency, the use of new materials in panels is progressing, increasing thermal insulation and reducing the width of doors, with a view to design lighter automatic doors and more sustainable all at once.

With regard to usability, the focus is on the design of more accurate elements, which increase their useful life and minimise breaking risks. Besides, systems are progressing toward easier usability, more intuitive, with a view to enhance user experience. Related to all these aspects, another feature of automatic doors in the future is their contribution to comfort, with more and more silent and quick doors, to stop considering them as crossing barriers, turning them into an everyday life element.

wo other features, increasingly more important, will influence this achievement: accessibility and architectural integration. Automatic doors are an indispensable element to promote building accessibility and it is a factor that will gain high importance in the future. Besides, the customisation of entry and exit systems is essential when it comes to adapt to any need and environment.

And although it could seem something pertaining to H. G. Wells’s science fiction novels, the incorporation of biometry into automatic doors can be a normal feature in the airports of the future. Airlines must check the identity of all passengers, and since it is expected that the number of passengers double in 2036, both airlines and airports must opt for safer, faster and more efficient control technologies. And biometry can offer it, for instance by being installed in boarding automatic doors and other airport control points, which will enable to speed up passenger flow in a safe way.

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