Things To Consider When Setting Up An Operations Center Or Control Room
In mission-critical operations, details matter. Even small reductions in response times and efficiency improvements can help mitigate the impact of incidents and even save lives.
When setting up an operations center or control room, the approach needs to be both detailed and holistic to ensure maximum efficiency. It's vital to consider not just immediate needs but also future trends which will ensure your mission-critical infrastructure is set up for success today and for years to come.
1. Workflow discovery
When setting up your operations center or control room, don't wait until after the room has been designed to consider what technology is required. Design the space around the workflow and technology needed for it to operate, not vice versa.
Understanding the workflow of your organization is the first step. It's important to have a consensus on what critical information needs to be displayed or shared and who needs to see it for situational awareness. Your organization should be thinking not just about today's workflow, but also considering future needs. What advancements in technology can help improve efficiency?
When planning for a mission-critical environment, include the decision-makers in your IT department from the very beginning. This will ensure security considerations are brought up early. The IT department is going to be able to identify potential security vulnerabilities and risks and can advise on the technology infrastructure needed.
Questions to consider during this phase include:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What critical information needs to be visualized and where?
- What assumptions have you made that could cause issues later on?
- Who can help guide you on new technology to support situational awareness? Are you talking to a subject matter expert?
- Now or in the future will you need to share content outside the four walls of the control room?
- Does your workflow allow for a distributed workforce?
2. Spatial planning
Spatial planning should be an operator-led discussion because operators are the end-users of the control room and the people who are most often in the space for extended periods of time. An operator's primary responsibility is to monitor, analyze, translate and make rapid real-time decisions based on the information being shown. it is paramount that they are able to stay focused at all times. Anyone in the planning phase of a control room should understand the spatial factors that can impact operators' ability to make critical decisions. Some considerations:
- Number of operators in the space
- Type of content and display technology used-- undertake a sightline analysis to ensure operators have uninterrupted visibility
- Ambient light, noise, and room color need to be considered to avoid distraction
- Ensure the room is compliant with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) to allow an accessible environment for all
- User interface--touch panel vs desktop, the ease of use of the software for operators
- Furniture considerations--ensure mobility around work desks. Sit-stand work desks are now popular. It's also important to ensure cable routing isn't a problem by using raised flooring or accessible ceilings
Planning around the factors listed above will set your operators up for success and help decrease operator fatigue (mental alertness, visual acuity, and stress) which will help reduce potential errors.
3. Operator workstation and connections
There are many things to consider in order to sufficiently set up your operator workstation including making sure they have the right equipment and connections. Other considerations include:
- Identifying the required power and data needed at each workstation
- How the operator will interact with PCs if in a rack
- Are there other AV devices needed at the desk?
- Will your operators be working independently or with other operators?
- How many displays will the operators need?
- Will the orientation of operators' displays impact sightlines?
- Does the operator workstation interact with the video wall?
- Equipment considerations such as microphone, speakers, headset, and touch panel
- Do operators need access from home or a remote site?
When consulting with your operators in the planning phase, it's important to design the workstation around their workflow and specific requirements.
4. Infrastructure planning
Problems with hardware-centric solutions
In the past, the AV industry as well as the solutions offered to control rooms and operation centers have been dominated by hardware-centric solutions that are proprietary in nature. This has had a negative impact on security compliance, workflow management, and even Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in control rooms and operation centers.
Because most AV hardware is proprietary in nature, it causes major security concerns. The IT organization responsible for managing it rarely has visibility into it and when they do it often raises red flags.
Flexibility, scalability, and interoperability are needed to support dynamic standard operating procedures and emergency response plans. Adding new sources, displays, add-on solutions and features can be severely limited by the proprietary nature of legacy AV solutions.
Hardware-centric solutions need to be refreshed roughly every five years. In many cases, newer hardware releases cause existing hardware to become the end of life. This may force a refresh of hardware before the normal five-year timeline. Keep in mind, opting for proprietary hardware creates vendor lock-in which limits customers' options for procurement, support, and future deployments.
Software-centric solutions as an alternative
Alternatively, standards-based, open technology software can be paired with commercially available off-the-shelf hardware and make it easier for an IT department to provide front-line support. This is the Userful approach and it makes it easier to integrate with third-party applications, ensures interoperability, and reduces security risks. A software-based approach gives an operation center scalability, security, and interoperability.
- Software-defined solutions provide faster tool updates and the ability to add new functionality
- Software running on standard, commercially available hardware is easier to troubleshoot and maintain due to accessible skilled support from any IT department.
- Software can easily integrate third-party, legacy, cloud-based, IoT applications with less overhead than proprietary hardware.
- Software integrates to IT stack/network/architecture, meaning IT teams can use the same security and privacy protocols already in place. Proprietary hardware is usually a closed system with no visibility to IT, thus they can't apply security protocols.
Any operations centre that is using video data today needs to consider the addition of a computer vision solution. Given the rapid increase in video data this is the only scalable way to ensure operators have true, proactive situational awareness.
Two challenges for any operations Centre considering computer vision: first identifying the right product and separating hype from reality and second making sure that any computer vision solutions added to the operation centres are truly interoperable.
If you are planning to build an operations center or upgrade your existing operations centre, schedule a free consultation call with one of our Operation Center and Control Room Experts to help you understand how to achieve your goals and ensure your organization is able to scale with the ever-increasing volume of video data.
5. TCO Considerations
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a key metric in any technology purchasing decision. This calculation includes the upfront costs of deploying an operations center or control room and the total ongoing operating costs. Userful is an industry leader in reducing customers' TCO and does this in several key ways:
- Userful requires significantly less hardware than the competition and uses only commercially available and off the shelf hardware, unlike many AV vendors who rely on specialized or proprietary hardware
- Off the shelf hardware means no vendor lock in on hardware which can result in significant cost savings over time when hardware needs to be upgraded or replaced
- Less hardware results in less electricity, fewer plugs and reduces the need for electric or HVAC upgrades
- Userful is a software first solution which means its features and functionality are driven by software and when new releases come out, all customers receive them. This ensures that every operation center and control room stays up-to-date with the latest technology
- Ongoing support and new features are all included with Userful
There is a lot that goes into the planning and execution of an effective and sustainable operations center or control room and reading the blog above is a good first step. Download our Control Room Planning Checklist to use as a guide for your next project. For even more resources and helpful information watch the on-demand webinar.