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The design of any AV facility can be complex – but when that facility is operating in a mission-critical environment, design challenges multiply, as Ian McMurray discovers

Frankfurt am Main’s traffic management centre benefits from G&D KVM solutions that keep computers separate from the user area


The available physical space will always have some impact on the AV systems design of a control room

Versatility, modularity, scalability, flexibility and upgradability are all much-prized attributes of any control room solution

Control room screens may capture the glory, but switching, wall control, KVM and mounting technologies are all important

GEORGE ORWELL’S seminal novel 1984 envisaged a future in which the citizens of Oceania – the upper and middle classes, at least – were kept under constant government surveillance by the all-pervading ‘telescreen’. ‘Big Brother is watching you’ signs were an omnipresent reminder to the populace that its every move and word was being monitored. There is a case for saying that Orwell implicitly invented the screen- dominated control room we know today.

A thought that almost certainly never crossed Orwell’s mind, of course, is how one would set about designing such a facility. It is, though, a thought that preoccupies AV manufacturers and integrators on a regular basis. “Control room design is a

science as much as an art,” says Peter van Dijk, business

20 May 2014

manager, Visual Information Systems at Mitsubishi Electric, “so I would argue that experience is probably the most important aspect a customer should be looking for when considering a design proposal.”

EXPERIENCE COUNTS A company with much experience in this area is worldwide infrastructure consultancy Atkins, whose control room projects have included the city-wide, 450-camera CCTV system in Kingston upon Hull and the Glasgow Subway in the UK. “When it comes to designing a control room,” smiles principal engineer Andy Godfrey, “if the user doesn’t like it – and they’ll always be looking for ways not to like it – they’ll never utilise the full potential of a system, regardless of all the clever bells and whistles

‘The three most important issues are always

ergonomics, usability and reliability’ Andy Godfrey, Atkins

you’ve designed in. The three most important issues are always ergonomics, usability and reliability.” Christie too believes that

experience is a valuable asset.

“We have 30 years’ experience in the design of control rooms and continuous operations environments,” notes the company’s David Griffiths, who is director, market development, videowalls and image processing for EMEA. “We would certainly be able to provide advice on the optimal design and physical design of the control room itself, if requested.”

But, it seems, it’s rare for a manufacturer or integrator to be involved in designing a new control room from the ground up – largely because the significant majority of projects are upgrades and refurbishments. “A typical project for us could be either new build or refurbishment,” continues van Dijk, “although in reality it is rare to encounter a completely new installation.” When the opportunity does arise, however, it’s welcomed.

Ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a new multi-million pound control centre has been opened which will link emergency services, traffic cameras and store detectives to make the city as safe as possible (see box, opposite). “SSUK was called in at an

early stage of the project to help assist with room design, layout and structural considerations,” explains the company’s sales director Alex Adleigh. “Once the final plans were set in stone, we were able to advise on screen size, fixing equipment and necessary infrastructure.” “Ideally, we get involved at an initial stage of planning the control room,” adds Max Winck, marketing manager at eyevis. “This ensures that we can bring our expertise to bear, and influence the design of the room to a certain extent. If we get

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