Control Rooms Summit 2021

Tuesday 1 June 2021, 9:00 – 16:30, Fira de Barcelona

Conference chair Peter Prater commented on the “great timing” of the inaugural Control Rooms Summit (CRS) at ISE 2020, due to the many technical advances coming into the sector. The Summit was organised in conjunction with the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance, which Prater chairs, as well as being Managing Director of Hexagon Safety and Infrastructure UK.

Remote operations in particular are increasing control-room capabilities, as illustrated in the opening case study Remotely Operated Vehicles at Australia’s Largest Oil and Gas Development, which was delivered over a live video link from Western Australia by Samuel Forbes, General Manager of geodata specialist Furgo.

Speaking from a control room in Perth, Forbes demonstrated an augmented reality simulator that is able to perform manual tasks on the sea bed: “It’s exciting because it can operate beyond the oil and gas sector and as it’s an agnostic platform it can integrate with any robotic system.”

Virtual reality (VR) played a crucial role in designing a new layout for the control tower at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. José Daenen, Operations Director for LVNL (the Netherlands’ air traffic control service), explained that one working position was visualised in 3D before a full-size model of the new control room was built. He added that the project succeeded in creating a larger working area that was more efficient with a less noisy environment.

The role of AV equipment in this market featured in several sessions. During the panel The Use of AV in Critical Control Rooms, Hexagon Director of Sales US (East) Christopher Carver commented that audiovisual technology could be used to manage all forms of data, both from the field and within the command area. Jan Petter Lie, President (Europe) of control platform developer Cyviz, agreed, saying, “AV is where humans meet data and are able to bring the field into the control room.”

Thierry Bru, Operation Control Centre Service Manager at the European Space Agency, joked that he wished command rooms could be like the one in the Hunger Games films. “But we are looking at LEDs, so why not 3D as well?” he said. “However, we don’t want to disturb how we work now.” Also on the panel was Chief Superintendent David Jackson of London’s Metropolitan Police, who later presented a case study of his force’s control areas.

The Met is about to update its control technology; Jackson said it is still using old computers with black screens, green text and an operating system from the 1980s and so could learn from modern AI-based technology and apps. “AV is a real opportunity [for control rooms], with things like VR,” he added.

Technology is a major consideration in control rooms but so are comfort and good working conditions. This was discussed in the panel Ergonomic Design Considerations, featuring designers and consultants alongside Rossano Giachino, Control Centre Manager at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). Giachino said it took “a long time” to finalise the design at the Large Hadron Collider control centre: “It was important we got it right in the end. You have a control room for ten to 20 years. If you get it wrong, that can be problematic.”

CERN worked with CCD Design & Ergonomics, whose MD David Watts observed, “You have to go into detail with the client about specifics, such as collaboration, use cases and organisation, because they could change their minds about how they want to work in the future.” Fernando Cajal, International Sales Manager of technical furniture maker GESAB, observed, “You have to consider the technology, human factors, the way people work and the space available.” Dr Astrid Oehme, MD of Human-Factors-Consult, pointed out that there was a psychological element to designing a control area as well: “People need to feel secure with the technology and not be overwhelmed by it.”