When you or a loved one places an emergency 9-1-1 call, it’s routed to your local dispatch center. From here the dispatcher assesses and categorizes your emergency. If necessary, they assign field personnel — EMS or police, for example — to incidents. Dispatchers log all calls and activities, monitor automatic vehicle location (AVL), and geographic information (GIS) with the Computer Aided Dispatch system. This system gets the police officer, fire fighter, or ambulance to your location to prevent situations from escalating and to save lives.
As you can imagine, time is of the essence. In today’s modern computer-aided dispatch center, people and machines work in tandem. Dispatchers often have a minimum of three computer monitors in front of them. Each of these has dedicated tasks and information being displayed. In order for a dispatch operator to operate all three machines he or she may end up with three separate keyboards and mice cluttering their desktops. The multiple keyboard/mouse (K/M) workstations lead to three main pain points.
- Confusion as to which keyboard and mouse to use for which system.
- Ergonomics of having to swivel or reach in order to access the correct keyboard and mouse.
- An interruption in the workflow of having to physically switch to a different keyboard and mouse.
All of these points lead to increased response times, which are precious seconds that could be the difference between life and death. Response times are the leading statistic by which E-911 centers are judged for efficiency and effectiveness.
Popular options that have worked in the past have significant shortcomings.
The first is a software-based solution that allows a dispatch operator to use one keyboard and mouse on multiple machines. In theory, this works well, but here are three main shortcomings to a software-based solution.
- Security risk of having to install additional software. Dedicated machines are often configured by a manufacturer that will not support your system if you install any unauthorized software.
- Software-based keyboard and mouse switching relies on the network. Spikes in Internet activities can render the keyboard and mouse unresponsive or extremely slow to respond; the operator has to wait until the network activity clears up. Response times are increased, which is unacceptable.
- One machine acts as a server while the other machines act as clients. In this setup, if the “server” machine goes down, you lose keyboard and mouse on all other machines.
The second solution is a desktop, hardware-based keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) switch. This is a better solution because it requires no dependency on the network and is not adversely affected by the health of one machine on the system. However, the pitfall is a stuttered workflow; multiple port, hardware-based KVMs usually require the emergency dispatch operator to physically push a button on the KVM switch or press multiple keys on the keyboard to switch keyboard and mouse focus.
Black Box has introduced a new solution that combines the best of both worlds: the Freedom II. The Freedom is a hardware-based keyboard, video, and mouse switch. However, built into the hardware box is an innovative solution that provides the ability for a dispatch operator to switch between up to four machines simply by moving the mouse across the monitors. When the dispatch operator’s mouse cursor is on screen 1, keyboard and mouse focus is on machine 1. If the dispatch operator wants to access and control other machines he or she simply has to move the mouse across the screen to the second, third, or fourth monitors. This is an intuitive solution with no learning curve, increased operator comfort in ergonomics, and no interruption in workflow. Its deployment ultimately leads to decreased response times. This is an easy-to-implement hardware solution with no software to install and no dependency on networks.