At first glance it appears that technology is at the heart of a critical control room. While the latest systems are necessary for controlling operations, it is how the people running them are able to work in the space comfortably and efficiently that has become a major consideration.

This was a theme that was examined during the ISE 2020 Control Rooms Summit (CRS) by Gerhard Kimenkowski, Founder and Managing Director of CADwalk Global, in his presentation Learnings from Down Under: The Future of Control Rooms. Kimenkowski has worked in high-value technical room design for 25 years, primarily in the transport, public safety, utility and government sectors.

Originally from Germany, Kimenkowski has long been based in Australia. His CADwalk Global company was a start-up and is now beginning to work with oil and gas companies in its home market, as well as with operations around the world. The CADwalk system uses augmented reality (AR) to visualise spaces and enables people to interact with layouts and select the best room design for their needs.

Kimenkowski made the point that due to the sheer size of Australia, industry there has relied extensively on remote operations. He gave examples including the Ichthys gas field project, which involves 890km of pipeline from offshore rigs to the northwest of Australia running into plants at Darwin. Inland, 60% of all train lines are automated, as are 5000km of drilling. All of this, plus 80 automatically controlled trucks, has to be run from a control centre.

The control room of the future, Kimenkowski explained, would have to deal with even more automation and remote operations. The next generation of control centres would, he said, be based on digital twinning, remotely controlled functions and Industry 4.0 technologies for greater automation and data exchange. There would also be visual decision-making, AR plus mixed and virtual realities and remote support techniques.

As well as technology, other important considerations include: space utilisation, people and workflows, IT and AV, operational models, architecture and design, integration, video walls, electrical and networking systems, heating and lighting, and technical furniture.

Kimenkowski said that the use of digital twinning in visualisation systems like CADwalk allowed clients to position representations of equipment in an actual-size space representing the proposed control area. This, he explained, cut the design process down from three to six months to two to ten days. “It can accelerate the design phase, which is the Holy Grail of VR,” he concluded.

Control Rooms Summit took place on 11 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Please find the image gallery here. See you next year at Integrated Systems Europe 2021!