Why control rooms?

As buildings are becoming more and more connected, the smart buildings sector is also becoming increasingly able to collect and action a vast amount of previously unseen data in more streamlined formats. We’ve teamed up with Winsted to deliver an introduction into the key benefits of control rooms, beyond what you’ve seen in films…

Whilst Vanti often works with clients past the installation stage in order to optimise and monitor their new technology, it’s also often important for organisations to have an on-site presence for monitoring. This might be because someone has tripped an alarm and left the wrong door open, or suspicious activity has been detected from within the building network. These things happen, and they might require immediate on-site attendance to ensure smooth building operation in the meantime.

Who’s Winsted?

Winsted are the worldwide leader in command and control room consoles for 24/7 mission-critical applications. For over 55 years they have been engineering product designs that consider both the application and the user.

Winsted’s experts combine the discipline of industrial design, ergonomics, and interior design to create solutions that are both efficient and eye-catching. They give special consideration to the ergonomic requirements of your operators to build consoles that reduce fatigue, improve productivity and inspire.

What exactly is a control room?

Buildings have always produced a vast amount of unseen and unobserved data. Innovation in technology means, through integration, that this data is now accessible through the support of automation and machine learning. This enables service-oriented integrators like Vanti to proactively monitor data and develop routes to optimise processes, ultimately ensuring that end users are supported in a stress-free technological environment.

A control room is a space with a purpose, an on-site brain for an intelligent network, built for monitoring a progressively diverse range of processes and maintenance requirements. From here, an experienced operator can oversee a wide range of processes at a glance such as: occupancy, security, environment conditions, maintenance issues etc.

Well-designed control rooms are key to cost-effective building management. This is the pivotal aspect of all on-site data monitoring and is essentially the physical manifestation of what Vanti does as a Main Technology Contractor; a central control dashboard can oversee and interact with a multitude of technology systems.

Today’s evolving world creates the need to evaluate environment working conditions around the clock. It’s often necessary to modernise control rooms through renovation or by consolidating and centralising elements.  The goal is to promote effective human interaction within the physical control room surrounding.

An innovative approach to centralisation 

Control rooms don’t have to be limited to overseeing a single site. With the interconnectivity that integration provides, a network of buildings can be completely encompassed by a single control room.

On the face of things, this increases efficiency by a large factor through avoiding the duplication of resources. With a focus on centralisation being a key corporate efficiency target for some time, it’s important to understand that centralisation has not been possible on quite this level before the development of IoT integrated control rooms.

Some organisations might have friction with the thought of dropping their multi-site physical presence, with worries around the kind of downtime or maintenance impact this may have. But actually, this approach of acute centralisation enables far optimised allocation of resources if engaged properly.

Using control rooms for building networks can lead to the creation of a central hub for large organisations, whereby a single site can monitor and look after a national network of buildings – or even wider still.

An initial thought in response to this might be – if expertise is centralised then how might we resolve on-site issues rapidly?

Through the implementation of proactive monitoring, maintenance issues will no longer rely on users to report them. For example, before integrated oversight, imagine a building’s heating has stopped working in two of the presentation rooms. The first few users may not bother to report this; they’ve got their jackets with them so it’s a minor inconvenience. Hopefully the third person to enter the room will report this to maintenance to get it actioned. Now, an expert with specialisation in this maintenance area will have to travel to site, speak to one or more members of staff in order to find the affected area, seek out the source of the fault, and then resolve it. Then you receive a bill for the maintenance but realise, what about the other meeting room?

With integrated monitoring, highlighting the root cause of the fault is the first step in the process. A centralised control room can see the fault as it arises – sometimes even beforehand with predictive maintenance – and with machine learning bringing focus to this on the monitors, resources can be rapidly allocated.

Common practice for intelligent multi-site networks, such as through Smart Core-enabled control rooms, is to allocate each site with supporting members of maintenance staff. This enables the provision of remote access from a centralised hub, by way of integration with traditional maintenance workflows – for example automating work orders within a CAFM system. Through this, on-site staff can quickly be directed towards the exact area of fault by a centralised expert, who is able to direct support staff through the full resolution process. This will notably decrease downtime, saving the expert from travelling to site, and allowing them to be present at multiple sites concurrently. This can be used alongside other integrated devices, such as AR glasses, which can show an expert the fault exactly as the support staff see it.

The importance of design

Given the decisive nature of control rooms, their design can ultimately determine whether catastrophic incidents can be identified and prevented, since the control room acts as a person’s eyes and ears. When designing a control room it’s critical to consider all factors, for example: equipment selection, operating practices, working environments and furniture choices.

At Winsted, modern control room construction exhibits configurable and adaptive reuse concepts. There are various methods to achieve flexibility, but it is important to build and install durable and longer lasting modular components. This modular approach has many benefits, with the highly configurable design creating long term value through versatility and easy adaptation of the space.

It’s highly important that design choices are carefully considered before being implemented. Ensuring that your control room is a comfortable place for employees to work in is essential to its success and functionality.

Console designers have a keen eye for the details that can assist or impede a project.  From ergonomics to electronics, the design team will work with you to include every detail.  Once your design is complete, you will receive a design and specification package ready for presentation. Winsted’s team of proficient designers, project managers and installation teams work together to deliver and exceed expectations before, during, and after the project is complete.

Focusing on uptime

Downtime can be decreased through reducing travel time and expertise transfer, as previously mentioned. But uptime can additionally be increased by the proactive monitoring ability that Smart Core enabled control rooms grant. Continuously active sensors provide both real-time and historic data, enabling operators to apply judgement alongside machine learning to contribute to predictive maintenance.

Through predictive maintenance, resources can be allocated ahead of time, by sending engineers to fix a fault before it has even occurred. It’s important to note here that predictive maintenance has been a massive contributor to the success and surging appetite for building automation in commercial spaces. That’s because plugging a hole before it bursts avoids any physical damages as well as damages caused by downtime.

Connected security

Base-level integration allows sight of several physical security points through CCTV, but an issue with this is that overseeing all of these camera angles takes up physical real estate. And when there are so many things to track at once, it would either take a hundred screens or two-hundred eyes to keep up with everything.

At Vanti, we develop custom Smart Core-enabled software dashboards with the ability to integrate and utilise machine learning enabled devices, such as CCTV,  so that operators can always see the most relevant data. As a result, the more that the control dashboard is used, the more useful it becomes. For example, a security breach will bring up AI-enabled focus areas on monitors to draw attention to processes that require immediate attention. Through this, an operator can quickly decide whether someone is in an off-limit zone, or whether there’s a cat walking on the safe side of the gate.

Connected technology is bringing forward new forms of building vulnerabilities. A recent study undertaken by Applied Risk has found that even individuals with low-level hacking ability could navigate and gain complete access to technology systems that were designed by some of the largest firms in the industry.

However, with continuous monitoring like never before, these vulnerabilities can be proactively patched and dealt with before they become a threat to wider process.

Not just multi-site

When we talk about control rooms, a huge office with a wall of screens might come to mind. But another success of a thoughtfully designed control room should be that it is able to grow with your organisation. These benefits aren’t only available to companies with a national or global network of physical presence, and as such it’s important to discuss the importance of control centres for medium and growing businesses.

Modular control room furniture offers the flexibility to move and rearrange things as a company sees fit. It’s a great way to continually maximize the functionality of a design layout, and it also helps utilise space for new and expected growth.

We’d like to give a big thanks to Winsted for teaming up with us on this article, helping us to provide a holistic perspective on the command and control room from both a technological and a physical stand-point.

Winsted offer a complimentary design service as standard, in addition to a free easy-to-use, interactive, 3D console design software that is available for download.

If you’re interested in discussing control rooms or Smart Core, we’d love to hear from you!