Control rooms are essential to the daily operation of a variety of organizations, from utility companies to transit authorities. Operators are constantly monitoring, interpreting, and relaying data to facilitate efficient work and better decision making. As a result, control room technology and how operators handle data must continue to evolve and grow. So, what does the control room of the future look like? In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at five of the biggest control room trends for 2020.
Trend #1: Operators Must Be Able to Quickly Process Large Quantities of Big Data
Operators glean the most valuable insights from data when they’re able to quickly and accurately process it as it enters the control room. This is especially important in the age of big data. Organizations are bombarded with structured and unstructured data every day, and using it properly allows them to make the best choices in mission-critical situations.
What is Big Data?
Big data is large and complicated data that can’t be processed using traditional methods. Big data:
- Comes in large quantities from a variety of sources, including smart technology, social media, dashboards, security cameras, and industrial equipment.
- Flows into businesses rapidly and must be handled in near-real-time, especially when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT).
- Comes in a diverse array of formats, including structured numeric data and unstructured text data.
How Can Control Rooms Effectively Handle Big Data?
Two of the best ways for control rooms to handle and maintain big data are through storage area networks (SANs) and media asset management (MAM) software.
Storage area networks offer storage resources that can be managed and allocated as needed from a single source. SANs allow organizations to process data more effectively, which is particularly important with big data. SAN providers continue to produce products with increasing scalability, manageability, and efficiency.
Media asset management software is designed to help organizations manage high-volume video and multimedia files. MAM is best for situations that require maintaining large quantities of rich media files, which is usually the case with control rooms.
Trend #2: Organizations Must Instate Enhanced Security Precautions
Network and data security is of the utmost importance when it comes to command centers and control rooms. Big data is particularly vulnerable to security attacks due to its large volume and high velocity.
Keeping your control room (and your data) secure begins with a conversation with your integrator or the product manufacturer. Make sure they understand the security level you’re looking for to ensure the product will meet your standards. Discuss all of its use cases and review how the operator will use it on a daily basis.
It’s also important that operators have comprehensive training that teaches them how to securely handle data. Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) should be intuitive and user-friendly, because even the most secure systems can be infiltrated due to user error.
Organizations are also boosting the security of their control room by installing high-quality KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) systems. A KVM-over-IP switch allows an operator to control multiple computers using a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse. This can help prevent both internal and external security breaches.
Trend #3: Decision Making via Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Historically, AI and machine learning have been used to support the decisions of control room operators. While many tasks have been automated, the human operator remains in control, especially in the case of an emergency. However, one of 2020’s biggest anticipated trends is the utilization of AI and machine learning for fully-automated decision making.
What are AI and Machine Learning?
Not sure how AI and machine learning factor into the world of control rooms? Let’s start by examining the relationship between the two:
- Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science focused on creating “smart” machines that can perform tasks that require human intelligence. In short, smart machines must replicate the thought processes, reasoning, and behavior of humans.
- Machine learning applies AI to larger systems that learn and improve based on experience, rather than explicit programming. Computer programs that utilize machine learning can access data and use it to learn and make decisions on their own.
These computer programs are particularly useful in control rooms, where operators have a host of decisions to make. Machine learning allows certain decisions to be fully automated, leaving operators with time to focus on other tasks that can’t be handled by AI.
However, it’s important that the operator can still see and understand what the machine is doing. This is creating a demand for top-of-the-line displays that visualize information and processes clearly. We’ll take a closer look at this in our next trend.
Trend #4: LED Control Room Video Walls Will Become Even More Popular
We already know that operators have more data to analyze than ever. Along with that comes the need for bigger and better displays to visualize that data. In the past, control rooms used hybrid laser cube display walls and monitor projections. However, times have changed.
In 2020, the use of LED (light-emitting diode) video walls in control rooms is expected to continue to grow. There are a variety of reasons why organizations are opting for LED video walls in their control rooms:
- Because they don’t have bezels, LED cabinets can be arranged into seamless video walls.
- LEDs are highly flexible, so they can be molded into unconventional setups, such as curved walls.
- LEDs can operate effectively in well-lit environments, so control rooms can have windows that let in natural light.
- LEDs take up less space than traditional projection systems, which required extra space in the rear.
- A single panel of an LED display can offer up to 8K resolution, which is the highest resolution defined in the UHDTV standard. In most cases, direct view LED systems come in units that display less than 8K. When integrated, though, they can reach resolutions of HD or greater.
- LED displays incorporate quantum dot displays (QLEDs) and high dynamic range (HDR) for the most vivid imagery available.
Ultimately, custom LED video displays are larger, higher quality, and easier to repair than their predecessors.
Trend #5: AV and IT Will Continue to Integrate for Big Data Visualization
With increased amounts of data comes the need for enhanced data visualization. This is achieved through the marriage of audiovisual and information technology within an organization’s network design. Control room integrators use IT to connect AV equipment with server components. As big data comes in, it’s displayed on real-time dashboards in front of operators. This improves their situational awareness and helps them (or a machine) make a well-informed decision.
Big data visualization is crucial to the successful operation of any command center or control room. For starters, it makes it much easier to present data to everyone in the room at the same time. This facilitates conversation and collaboration, where appropriate. Big data visualization also allows operators to spot trends and identify unexpected correlations in large data sets.