Empowering Control Rooms Operators to Become Faster Decision Makers with an Operator-Centric Workspace

Posted in: Command & Control , Education , Government , Healthcare , Security , Transportation , Utilities

By Joshua Herring on Jul 20, 2017

Today’s control rooms are rapidly evolving to keep up with the increasing complexity of digital infrastructures. While the challenges remain the same, i.e., monitoring and managing electricity, traffic, or other resources to optimize operations or respond to incidents, the tools are changing to vastly improve situational awareness and abnormal incident responsiveness.

Collaborative decision-making in control rooms has traditionally been built around a giant overview video wall presenting a common operational picture of the various assets under oversight. However, operators are increasingly confronted with a multitude of disparate sources, many of them legacy and most of them connected to different network levels that are often impossible to interconnect. All of these must be visually analyzed, operated on and shared with a variety of decision-makers, from associated operators, to personnel in the field, to executives in the boardroom. The logical solution is to bring all of this visual information within the purview of the operator so that he or she can more efficiently use their workspace and enhance collaboration to make more effective decisions.

So, how do we bring this level of optimization from the main overview visualization platform to the individual operator workstation level and enhance decision-making?

Putting Control Room Operators in the Center of the Action

In order to affect this paradigm shift – reorienting the focus from the main overview video wall to the operator workstation – administrators must look at ways to involve staff in a more “operator-centric” operational model. The goal is to enable the operator to not just view, but also interact with, all information sources on a unifying operator workspace right on their desktops. This new workflow-linked model requires operators to have access to the right tools and technologies they need to securely manage any number of operational systems in order to do their jobs in the most effective and efficient way.

When designing a user-centric operator workspace, an organization should carefully evaluate and consider each aspect of the user’s needs. Fortunately, IT and AV technologies are merging to enable this new concept, providing operators with enhanced situational awareness and greater autonomy and control.

However, creating a fully optimized operator workspace is not without its challenges. An operator needs direct access to all information, coming from many sources, often from uniquely secured network layers. For security reasons, these networks often cannot be interconnected, so every legacy source needs a separate computer in most cases. This requires the operator to physically switch between workstations, each with its own keyboard/mouse, or use a cumbersome KVM switch to enforce mapping one source to one monitor. Neither of these solutions even begins to address the requirements towards virtualized systems, which are becoming the de-facto standard in most mission-critical control rooms.

A Single Pixel Space with Universal Control

The best way to solve this situation is to integrate all sources into one unified visual workspace, irrespective of the number of monitors required, which the operator can then control from one single keyboard and mouse. A software solution like Barco OpSpace accomplishes this with ease while ensuring flexibility and future-readiness. It offers a single, managed pixel space tailored to the operator and integrates information from various sources and networks. The result: the operator is in the center of the action – with all visual information within easy reach – in total control of his or her view. Any application, legacy system, remote desktop and video stream can be launched on the operator’s workspace and re-sized or moved, as well as interacted-with where applicable, offering a comprehensive overview and seamless control.

The Best of Both Worlds

Combining the traditional overview display wall approach powered by content management and collaboration software and the new operator-centric workspace software solution brings the best of both worlds to control rooms: situational awareness for all stakeholders with newly empowered operators armed with secured tools and software flexibility to bring all of the intelligence right to their desktop.

About the Author

Suchit Rout is Director of Global Strategic Marketing-Operator Experience for Barco, based in Atlanta (USA). He has been with Barco for over 10 years, holding various international positions in technology, product marketing, market development, strategic business development, key account management and strategic marketing. Before leading his current effort, Suchit led Barco’s Strategic Alliance program worldwide (consisting today of over 45 global technology companies and growing), as well as various strategic business development and go-to-market programs.

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