May 18, 2021

Real-time & relevant: how intuitive technologies are helping operators focus on and process critical information

Control Room 4 min read

Thanks to the proliferation of camera and sensor technologies, it has never been easier to collect real-time information and visualize it on the Common Operational Picture. Today’s limitations are, thus, no longer defined by technology, but by the limited human capacity to process information overload efficiently. Fortunately, there are ways in which technology can come to the rescue.

In government and homeland security environments, it is critical to collect information in real time. To save lives or contain incidents, control room operators sometimes need to make decisions based on up-to-the-second information.

This real-time aspect cannot be underestimated. Even when emergency services operators can shave minutes or seconds off their response times, it can already save lives. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. regulators have estimated that as many as 10,000 lives could be saved every year by reducing 911 response times by just one minute.

From real-time to relevant

However, there are limits to human cognition. A human operator can only process so much information in real time. Operators in command & control centers already struggle to manage the growing amount of information sources. They are also exposed to a growing number of alerts which risks desensitizing them. And as work shift durations increase, the attention spans of operators tend to decrease proportionately.

To a considerable extent, the solution to this problem can be found in more focus and in increasing the relevancy of the Common Operational Picture. Instead of bombarding the operator with real-time information scattered across different systems, today’s workspaces and working environments are built with the intention to place the operator at the center of information, enabling them to focus on only the relevant data.

The operator as the center of information

Today’s workspaces are designed to make it easier for operators to collect and process the incoming info as fast and efficiently as possible. Below are the 6 most notable features of these workspaces:

#1 Less monitor clutter

Monitor stacks are fast becoming outdated. Workspace solutions like Barco’s OpSpace bring all relevant information in front of the operator, on a single workspace. No more time-consuming switching between screens and computers to see incoming alarms, no more sliding chairs from one desk to another: all relevant information can now be displayed on a single pixel space.

#2 Less desk clutter

OPSPACE CLEAN DESKDesk clutter can affect operator performance. In conventional control room environments, many different management systems and alarms need to be controlled by different keyboards and mice. Today, it is possible to control different systems, even from differently secured networks, with a single keyboard and mouse, allowing operators to access their systems faster and take decisions quicker.

#3 Reduced navigation time

The longer it takes to navigate to the right content, the longer it takes to make a decision. By organizing relevant sources and data in saved layouts, users can find their relevant and personalized information much quicker. Layouts allow operators to fall back on their routines, which increases their reaction speed. Layouts also make an interface more task-oriented: they only show what operators need to know to enable them to do the essential task fast.

#4 Blending OT and IT information on the glass

Operators sometimes need to monitor different data sources residing on different isolated networks. Today, these sources are no longer necessarily restricted to different workstations. Virtual operator workspaces, like Barco’s OpSpace, add a control system visual layer, which provides an ‘integration at the glass’ approach. This means that control room operators do not interact with the data itself, but with the visual representation layer on top of it, making it easier for them to access different data types on the same workstation.

#5 Log in with personalized settings

In networked and distributed control rooms, content is no longer linked with a physical workstation. Thanks to networked visualization, operators can load their personalized workspace upon login, wherever they are. Thanks to this ‘Follow me’ function, all their preferred applications and signals can be quickly loaded onto their pre-defined visual layouts.

#6 Less distractions

A workspace that is designed to improve the operator’s focus also limits distractions. Thanks to networked visualization, workstations can be virtualized and hosted in an external data center. This frees the operator workspace from a lot of hardware, and from the associated distractions of heat and noise. Virtualized infrastructure is an important part of a company’s digital transformation efforts. It helps control rooms to be more flexible in their control room layout and workforce organization, and it gives them the opportunity to adapt more readily to technological changes.

Want to know more?

See what the ultimate operator workspace looks like

 

About the author

Pat Sweeney
Market Sales Manager of Control Rooms – Federal

Pat has focused on federal control rooms over the past 20 years. With his industry knowledge and technical background, Pat is able to provide reliant and flexible control room solutions in government and surveillance applications. He is based in Atlanta, GA USA.

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