Critical control at a critical time

With social distancing likely to become the ‘new normal’, NEC control room expert, Stephen Wair, considers how this will affect command & control operations.

Once the immediate threat of Covid-19 passes and we return to business ‘as usual’, it is highly likely that social distancing will remain in place for some time to come. This will have major implications for businesses as they call employees back to resume their usual routine.

With control rooms representing the backbone of many organisations, it is critical that operators are able to protect their staff and keep visitors safe.


Stephen Wair - Corporate Sales Manager - Transportation, Energy, MOD & Public Sector


There’s no standard configuration for a control room, they come in all shapes and sizes, but generally speaking, as with all commercial establishments, space is at a premium. A typical control room setup will include a large digital canvas, often an LCD or dvLED videowall.

This is used to display the Common Operational Picture, a visual presentation of all information sources coming in via the control room data feeds.This overview must be clearly in view at all times, available to all operations staff, crisis management team and any visiting technical experts.

That’s a lot of people, and depending on the scenario, could be a whole lot more. Maintaining the required two metre distance between colleagues both seated and moving around the room is certain to be a challenge.


Visualisation for 'Social Distancing' purposes

Widening walkways and rearranging desks will be necessary to accommodate the social distancing rules. In order to ensure continued non-restricted visibility of the Common Operational Overview for all staff and visitors from all lines of sight across the room, this would necessitate the overview videowall to be significantly extended.

This may not be an issue where the space is available or where the control centre can be relocated to larger premises, but often its simply not feasible. Furthermore, this would not offer a suitable solution for operators who might now have their backs to the videowall, following relocation of their desk.


Visualisation for 'Social Distancing' purposes

An alternative and simpler solution might be the introduction of the ‘Personal Overview Wall’ to supplement the existing large videowall. Careful analysis of lines of sight will locate the personal wall in front of the operator’s desk, just beyond his desktop displays.

A single large format display with UHD resolution and sized 65” to 86” to ensure the optimum visual experience will display the data which might not be visible on the large wall from the operator’s now ‘socially distanced’ workspace. This solution negates the expense of an extended videowall whilst supporting a post-pandemic room layout compliant to new and potentially long-standing social distancing rules.


Visualisation for 'Social Distancing' purposes

A further benefit sees the new personal wall device serving multiple usage – embedded with a compute module the screen offers excellent versatility and can be used for video conferencing, collaboration and digital signage for internal announcements, training and emergency signage.

This versatility is further enhanced when the video wall controller is built around the IP-based Hiperwall system. Supporting unlimited outputs and innumerable data sources, adding the additional screens could not be easier – it’s a simple software reconfiguration with no downtime implication or additional hardware needs. With Hiperwall, all available data can be accessed immediately from any device on the network, across multiple rooms and geographical locations, there are no limits.


Hiperwall offers the extreme flexibility which control room operators need in order to implement changes swiftly to meet changing scenarios. NEC is uniquely positioned to be able to offer a solution which addresses the unique demands of a business-critical environment.

Our full range of visualisation hardware includes dvLED and LCD videowalls, large format displays, desktop displays and projection, plus the incredibly versatile Hiperwall control system. Our consultative approach ensures we recommend a solution which meets the needs of individual customer applications, not biased according to product availability.

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