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Creating Exceptional User Experiences in Control Rooms

Control rooms are the central point of communications in many industries. However, creating a user-friendly experience in control rooms is a challenge most businesses face. Today's users require more information, and operations are moving to virtualization and the cloud to enable scale and flexibility – often a private cloud rather than a public cloud for security of data and operations. All of this requires careful design of the control room and operator workspace to maximize efficiency and the operator's comfort.

Where Do You Start?

Control room operators need a user experience (UX) that is intuitive, efficient, and reliable. A "good" UX for operators should enable them to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently without unnecessary complexity or frustration. Here are some key elements that constitute a good UX for control room operators: user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate with clearly labeled buttons and controls, streamlined workflows that enable operators to focus on a task, reliable system performance, access to technical support when problems arise, and user training. A good UX should be straightforward so that an operator's brain is not consumed by running the equipment but instead solely focused on the task at hand.

User workspaces need to be instinctive, personalized, and focused on the multitude of tasks at hand. Operators must digest and interact with large volumes of information in real-time so should not be distracted by the environment or struggle with complicated interfaces.

Wish List for an Optimized Control Room

Most control room operators need to be able to access information on separate systems – whether physical or virtual devices. These systems can be SCADA controls, feeds from CCTV, police dispatch systems, document managers, or TV streams. The ability to login securely and easily switch between computer systems is paramount. Intuitive, easy-to-use processes; personalization of each workspace; and using just a mouse to switch between different systems (called Glide & Switch) are new trends that are streamlining switching. Secure login (even single sign-in to a company network) is a common practice.

Multi-monitor desks can be replaced with ultra-wide 4K and 5K screens now available at reasonable prices on the market. More systems can be monitored with better situational awareness as each "console video wall" can be created dedicated to the individual operator's requirements.

For the manager of the control room, easy and powerful central management is important. Creating fault-tolerant and secure access is vital. The integration with standard IT policies and systems is crucial for cost-efficient and secure operation – such as the ability to leverage Active Directory for authentication, SNMP or e-mail for issue notification, and increasingly, a strong focus on cybersecurity and intrusion attempts.

The Role of Solution Suppliers

Solution suppliers, such as AV/KVM manufacturers or integrators, play a critical role in ensuring that the control room system is designed, installed, and maintained to deliver a positive user experience. They should have a clear understanding of the user's needs and workflow to ensure that the system meets their requirements effectively. However, solution suppliers may also have limitations or constraints, such as budget or technology, that may affect their ability to deliver the optimal user experience.

While different stakeholders in the supply chain may have different perspectives and priorities, a positive user experience ultimately depends on a collaborative approach that considers the needs of all parties involved. By prioritizing the user's needs and leveraging the expertise of employers and solution suppliers, it is possible to deliver a system that maximizes user satisfaction and productivity.

Futureproof with Virtualization

Moving to virtualization and the cloud can help organizations reduce costs, increase flexibility, improve availability, enhance security, and better manage their IT infrastructure. However, it is important for organizations to carefully evaluate their requirements and choose the right virtualization and cloud computing solutions that meet their needs. Today, most cloud-oriented solutions leverage a private cloud rather than the public cloud as control rooms often need security of data and operations.

Is Retrofitting an Existing Installation an Option?

While it's generally easier to design a good UX from the start of a new control room installation, it is still possible to retrofit an existing installation to improve the user experience. The process of retrofitting an existing installation may be more challenging and time-consuming than designing a good UX from the start.

Here are some steps that can be taken to retrofit an existing installation with a better user experience: conduct a user needs assessment, evaluate the existing installation, develop a plan for improvement, implement the plan, conduct usability testing, and commit to continuous improvement.

While retrofitting an existing control room installation with a better user experience may be more challenging than designing a good UX from the start, it is still possible to improve the user experience with careful planning, evaluation, and implementation.

Whether you are building a new control room or retrofitting an existing system, Black Box has the product solutions and expertise to guide you to help achieve your desired results.

Emerald® DESKVUE: Trending KVM-over-IP Product

The award-winning Black Box® Emerald® DESKVUE receiver, a completely new concept in KVM over IP, allows users to create a personalized workspace in which they can simultaneously monitor and interact with up to 16 systems — physical, virtual, and cloud-based — of their choice.

Ideal for control room environments, the Black Box receiver ensures instant, error-free switching between systems with a simple mouse click and enables free positioning of system windows across four 4K screens (one screen can be 5K), including ultra-wide curved monitors, while providing unique source information for each connected system.

Because the Emerald DESKVUE receiver does away with constant switching between systems, users no longer need to spend 40% to 50% of their time switching between systems and monitoring when tasks are complete or when a system requires interaction. With flexible, concurrent access to more than a dozen systems, all within view and easy reach, users maintain complete situational awareness that allows them to improve efficiency and productivity on a day-to-day basis and to take action instantly whenever needed.

Unlike solutions created out of complex and costly equipment integrations, DESKVUE is one small box that does it all, simply and securely over IP. Users tailor their workspaces by connecting a single keyboard, mouse, USB 3/2 devices, audio, and up to four 4K monitors (maximum of one 5K). DESKVUE connects to physical systems via Emerald transmitters; virtual machines using RDP, PCoIP, PCoIP Ultra; H.264/265 sources; and VNC.

Finally, DESKVUE can be easily integrated into existing Emerald systems by either adding this receiver to the KVM system or replacing a standard receiver – with 100% system compatibility and an integrated VM license for trouble-free VM access.

Follow Best Practices

By following best practices steps and processes, user organizations and technology suppliers can join forces to ensure that the control room system delivers a good experience to users, optimizing their productivity and satisfaction with the technology. Regular communication, collaboration, user feedback, and continuous improvement are key to delivering a positive user experience.

Measuring Results: Benefits of a Good UX

Providing a good user experience (UX) in control rooms can have a range of benefits for users, their organizations, and technology suppliers. Some potential benefits of providing a good UX include user satisfaction, improved productivity, better ROI, and maintaining a positive reputation to help attract and retain top talent, as well as improve the organization's image among customers and partners.

Next Steps

Want to learn more about Emerald® DESKVUE? Click here.

You can trust Black Box to help you create exceptional user experiences in the control room. Contact us today.

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