Sophistication and functionality in the control room

March 2009 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Console design can have a significant impact on long-term operator performance.

Historically, security operations centres and call centres were hidden away in the depths of buildings or nondescript backrooms where they were seldom, if ever, seen by the public. Because of this, the focus of security console design in particular was mostly function over form. Consoles were rarely things of beauty. No one cared what a console looked like, as long as it was functional and held the equipment necessary to get the job done. Indeed, far less importance was given, and attention paid, to the conditions under which that equipment was being used.

Today’s consoles are smaller, more attractive and more functional than ever before. From aesthetics to ergonomics, there is no shortage of influences effecting this transformation. Increased public awareness, the emergence of digital technology, system integration, flat panel screens, touch-screen technology and new ergonomic standards are all responsible for the profound effects on recent security console design.

Security has transitioned into a primary concern of governments, corporations and the general public with security operations moving very much to the forefront of people’s minds. In an effort to increase a sense of security, organisations are choosing to make security operations in their facilities extremely visible. As a result, the technical furniture industry’s approach to security console design is changing to include aesthetic considerations.

Penny Bond of ProGroup argues that this is a crucial area as it allows operators to maintain unfailing concentration throughout their shifts. “Each console has to be tailor-made, taking account of who will be using it – wheelchair-bound operators, for example, will need a lower than normal desk top – and how much hardware it will have to accommodate.”

Bond goes on to stress that, “Adequate investment must also be made in chairs. Subjected to shifting weight for many hours, they must be fully adjustable and of robust construction, especially if each is used at a workstation manned by several operators over a 24-hour period.

“Trying to save money by investing in cheap materials and construction methods for workstations will prove to be misguided, especially in 24/7 control rooms. Wear and tear will soon see consoles and chairs having to be replaced, which involves further financial outlay and, even worse, will mean interrupting the operation of the control room while new consoles are installed.”

Touch-screen technology is also beginning to affect the ergonomics of new console designs, especially in high security and high-attention environments. Case studies show when people get extremely nervous under high-stress situations, they have trouble operating a computer mouse and finding an emergency icon to click on, which adds to delayed response times.

Studies also show that people have less trouble pointing with their finger at touch-screens to increase accuracy and quicker response times. As a result, touch-screens are becoming more and more prevalent in high security, high stress applications.

Consoles incorporating touch-screen technology feature shorter distances between the operator and the monitor screen, so operators can comfortably touch screens while sitting in the relaxed position. With these changing trends happening concurrently, technical furniture manufacturers are rising to the challenge and reacting quickly to create new security consoles that are ergonomic, aesthetically pleasing and functionally superior.

More often than not, security operations centres are designed for day-to-day normal operation procedures. They include just enough consoles to accommodate operators in such work routines and very little more. When upgrading or creating a new environment, consider crisis situations for your command and/or control security operations centres and your clients’ as well.

It has become apparent that crisis situations are not always imagined scenarios created for the sole purpose of training security personnel. Regardless of your security installation, facilities are going to grow. Security is not getting simpler; it is becoming increasingly more complex.


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