Can the “smart” concept be applied to control rooms and be effective?

Technology is a tool that is daily very present and has become an essential aid in our lives. But in critical environments, the main objective of security, performance and operability must not be lost sight of, so it is necessary to be very demanding with the technology that is incorporated and, above all, the functionality of that technology.

The concept of “Smart” technologies is increasingly widespread in society. From Smart Homes, Smart Cities to personal assistants, the use of data and the Internet of Thing (IoT) applied to products and services is increasingly accessible and can be a great source of innovation and evolution for many sectors. The fact that it is an increasingly popular technology has some drawbacks which is that more and more companies see the need to introduce this market trend in their products and it is not always done in a way that really adds intelligence to the product or simply that it adds value to the user beyond positioning it with the “Smart” label.

What do users expect from “smart” control consoles?

At GESAB we have incorporate our “people at the center” approach also in innovation and in the integration of technology. For this reason, we carried out a research with qualitative interviews with different user profiles (integrators, project managers, room supervisors and operators) related to control rooms with the aim of studying and obtaining first-hand information about which aspects are most important and what needs can be covered with the integration of technology in the technical furniture of control rooms.

One of the most interesting discoveries of the research was that even the most technophiles people, consider essential that technology should follow function, what is, that technology should offer some functionality that is relevant to the user and not just “add” technology to make it just looks more spectacular.

Another opinion that was quite repeated among the interviewees was that technology should focus on automating processes and improving assistance to the operator while performing control tasks, especially in security, service and environment management functions, as well as promoting collaboration between operators.

Finally, the possibility of carrying out control tasks remotely was also present, since it could be of great help in some emergency situations.

As a result of the investigation, GESAB began the SmartConsoles project with the main objective of improving the user experience of our current and future control consoles, incorporating new functionalities that add real value to our clients through the integration of technology. Focusing especially on the features that improve the usability of both consoles and Deskwall, as well as significantly improve productivity, safety and health.

Security, a key point in smart technology

One of the most valued aspects and with the greatest potential for innovation in critical environments is security. Thanks to the incorporation of intelligent identification systems and sensors integrated in the consoles, the security and management of operating positions could be substantially improved. Also, through centralized management and intelligent alerts, it would be possible to have real-time information on the presence of the operator at the console and even generate alerts in the event of a critical operating position and no one is present.

Another example of the potential that SmartConsoles provides for security, would be the centralized control of access to the technical areas of the console for equipment maintenance, as well as the monitoring of temperature, humidity or even electrical consumption of the consoles with the aim of managing a more efficient control room, especially when working in distant rooms or with a very large number of operators.

The different Smart technologies integrated into the console together with the Deskwall dynamic KVM systems is a combination that can radically change the operator experience and usability in these critical environments.

Through secondary screens integrated into the console itself and Smart identification systems, productivity and even security can be increased by reserving the secondary interactive screens for the management of quick accesses, configuration, sessions, layouts or notices and communication with other operators. Thus facilitating access to these functions that could normally interfere with the content that the operator is viewing.

On the other hand, the interactive screens linked to SmartConsole could be used as a center for warnings, recommendations or even for training (on the product or the company), becoming a personal multimedia center where all the information related to the operation of the system could be centralized with workplace, health and ergonomics. It is possible to display information on how to use the product in case of doubts or personal notices linked to a work smartphone.

Technology at the service of the user

These are some examples of the potential that technology offers when properly understood and applied to control centers and more specifically to consoles, but as new technologies are developed, the margin for innovation and improvement will be enormous.

In the near future, automated help in control tasks and decision-making will be a reality that will coexist with more traditional methods in control rooms with the aim of enhancing the safety, performance and usability of operating positions in environments critics.

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