Seven trends that will change Operation Centers and Control Rooms in 2021 (with a little help from our friends at Gartner)

As we enter a new year, and close out a tumultuous year of challenges and changes, it's a great time to look ahead and share some thoughts on what we can expect in the near future. Below are the top seven technology trends we see for Operation Centers and Control Rooms in 2021.

1. Teams will continue to need remote access to support control room operators working from home

2020 may well be declared the year of work from home, and that has had an impact on control room and operation center operators just as much as everyone else. Throughout the year here at Userful we saw an increase in requests from organizations looking for solutions to enable their operation center and control room operators to work remotely. While COVID 19 related work restrictions will decline in 2021, this "anywhere operations model" is here to stay for 2021 as explained in Gartner's 2021 technology report: "An anywhere operations model will be vital for businesses to emerge successfully from COVID-19. At its core, this operating model allows for business to be accessed, delivered and enabled anywhere."1

Every organization looking to invest in new control room solutions or retrofit existing centers will want to ensure their operators can work from anywhere. Userful's Visual Networking Platform is a leader in delivering remote access and enabling borderless control rooms.

2. Operators will increase the amount of content they share outside the four walls of the control room

One of the trends we've seen in 2020 which will carry on into 2021 is an increase in the number of operations centers and control rooms sharing sources not just to remote workers but to other offices and operation centers. Digital transformation initiatives and in part by globalization have resulted in more and more interconnectedness of offices and teams collaborating across the country and around the world.

Consider some of the many scenarios in which key people involved in mission-critical decisions might not be within the four walls of the operations center:

  • Key personnel may be working from home
  • Another agency providing oversight may be located in another office.
  • Due to an emergency onsite, it may be a team in a second redundant location that is helping make decisions
  • The first responders who need real-time information may actually be out in the field
  • If upper management needs to be kept informed, they may be located in a different part of the country, or even in a different country

In today's interconnected world, scenarios such as these are more common than they ever have been before. In 2021 we see this trend increasing and Userful is ready. The supervisor dashboard allows managers to view content on remote video walls, our virtual operations center allows for remote collaboration and operation centers can share content with one another over the WAN. 

3. Increased use of AI and Computer vision will aid the human eye

In December 2020, Gartner listed Computer vision as an Emerging Technology, stating that, "Computer vision technology is driving innovation across many industries and use cases and is pushing the business application of artificial intelligence into new frontiers."2 Computer vision and AI are supporting Control Room operators by applying to compute intelligence and power to augment the human eye. With the rapid increase in video sources, it's difficult for operators to identify key events in video streams. Computer vision can now do this and create trigger events on a video wall that brings an event to the attention of operators. In time sensitive situations, this is a key new technology that helps reduce response times and allows operators to be more proactive and less reactive.

Userful integrates with multiple Computer Vision products and our API makes it easy to integrate other AI applications. 

4. Software will continue to take market share from hardware

This is another trend that has been underway for years and is driven in part by many of the other trends cited above. In the past, AV solutions have been predominantly built on specialized or proprietary hardware. We've said it before and we'll say it again: the ROI for display solutions in operation centers and control rooms is in the intelligence added by the software layer. Hardware will always play a role, but the software is where the innovation lies, and software is the story for 2021 as it was for 2020.

Userful is unique in the video wall marketplace--software and cloud-enabled platform that operates on commercially-available off-the-shelf hardware.

5. LED will continue taking market share from LCD

This has been a trend over the past couple of years that will accelerate in 2021.

In the past control room and operation, centers have been slow to roll out LED walls due to the pixel pitch (in the past, LED walls haven't provided enough resolution compared to an LCD video wall of the same size). This has been changing with denser LED pixel pitches. With the advent of mini and micro LED the pixel density is rapidly increasing. Gartner's Hype Cycle for Display and Vision, 2020, lists mini LED at the very top point of the hype cycle.3 The advantages LED has with a significantly longer life cycle and no bezels in the display canvas are big attractions. Expect to see more and more direct view LED walls in operation centers and control rooms.

Userful supports just about any display from LCD screens and projectors to direct-view LED walls, including multi-controller LED walls

6. More operation centers monitoring more data from more sources

With a steadily increasing number of data points from AI, IoT, and other digital transformation projects, it's hard to believe there could still be more data points, video streams, and information sources to monitor. But looking through Gartner's reports for 2021, it's easy to spot the many new trends that will increase the number of operation centers companies deploy and will also increase the number of sources and data points. Two great examples: monitoring behavioral data for the IoB (Internet of Behaviour) a new trend that Gartner believes is going to have a greater role in business this year.4 Hyper Automation is another example that Gartner cites as a growth area for 2021.5 This too will create more data points, video streams, and information sources to be monitored.

7. Cybersecurity will be top of mind when deploying solutions for operation centers and control rooms

According to Gartner, network security teams are struggling to have complete visibility across multiple vendors, and maintaining continuous compliance is becoming a bigger challenge. More apps, devices, content, and access points across the network lead to increased risk.6 IT teams are increasingly taking responsibility for deploying and managing AV solutions as more and more AV solutions require network access. The fact more and more Operation Centers and Control Rooms are network connected and the trends towards remote access and content sharing outside the four walls of the control room will bring cybersecurity to the front of mind for IT teams.

Userful is a security leader in the video wall and display space. To learn more about Userful's security advantages read our white paper on video wall security

1 Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

2 Gartner, Emerging Technologies: Tech Innovators for Computer Vision, Published 10 December 2020

3 Gartner, Hype Cycle for Display and Vision, 2020, 14 July 2020

4 Gartner, Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

5 Gartner, Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

6 Gartner, Technology Insight for Network Security Policy Management, Refreshed 20 May 2020, Published 21 February 2019

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