The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 forced many control rooms teams to be creative with their operations and workflows. To respect social distancing rules and prevent people from getting sick, many control room teams opted to allow at least a part of their workforce to work from home. Suddenly, control room operators needed to be able to share and monitor content securely beyond the control room.
But even before COVID-19, the need for control room operators to have remote access to critical information systems had already become evident. Today, organizations are increasingly expecting an always-on mentality from their workforce. Control room managers and executives therefore need 24/7 situational awareness, and they need to be able to make crucial decisions in real time to increase safety, enhance productivity, or keep costs under control.
Fortunately, IT technology has been enabling remote working for years, as operations have become more decentralized and dispersed. COVID-19 has only given these technologies a push and, just like in other consumer and business markets, adoption of remote-working technologies is rapidly increasing among control room users.
The 5 benefits of working remotely
Remote access to information systems used to be mainly a privilege of field engineers, patrol vehicles, first responders, and the likes. What has changed today, is that the tasks that were typically performed in the confined space of the control room, now also need to be performed in collaboration with remotely located operators and field workers, be it in a smaller, separate control room or from home.
For control room operators, being location independent, has a number of advantages:
- More efficient use of resources: Scalable media platforms give control room stakeholders the capability to monitor the right information when they need it, wherever they are. By making content available wherever there is access to the network, incidents or maintenance issues can be solved directly by the expert, without having to rely on a back-up operator.
- Faster decisions: Smaller, dispersed control rooms can be located closer to the asset that needs to be managed (be it a city’s traffic or a utility). Decentralized operations can focus on localized asset management, resulting in faster decision making.
- Business continuity: By being active on several distributed locations, organizations can build redundancy into their control room operations, mitigating the risk from when one location goes down.
- Attract and retain talent: Remote operations allow control room teams to develop more progressive home office policies to attract a younger workforce, which expects flexible and hybrid workplaces. As such, remote capabilities are also seen as a way to retain talent.
- Better ergonomics: Smaller, decentralized control rooms can provide more ergonomic, operator-friendly working conditions. The traditional crowdy, noisy open space areas are more and more becoming a thing of the past.
Overcoming the challenges of working remotely
That does not mean that remote operations do not come with their own set of challenges. For starters, with a control room workforce that has become so dispersed, it has become even more critical to manage the content streams securely across all distributed locations. Control rooms were always designed to be moated sites, but the aversion to become connected was more and more becoming an obstacle. Granted, the assurance of a proven and secure solution never existed... until now.
In addition, fast and well-informed decisions require that remote stakeholders on both ends of the communication channel share the same view and see the available information in exactly the same way. Whether they are working from home on their laptop or looking at the overview wall in the control room, they need the same real-time and distributed Common Operational Picture.
Fortunately, technology can help control room operations to become more location independent. For example, streaming solutions such as Barco SecureStream make sharing content from the control room to external stakeholders – be it home office workers or remote control room operators – easy and secure. And with operator workspace solutions, such as Barco OpSpace, the operator’s personalized workspace settings − preferred applications and signals on the preferred locations – can be loaded to a workstation at any connected location.
About the author
Segment Marketing Manager of Control Rooms
Jordan focuses on control rooms at Barco utilizing her multi-industry knowledge and experience in sales, product marketing and strategic marketing to bring dynamic strategies to control rooms. She is based in Atlanta, GA.