6 Trends That Will Change Operation Centers and Control Rooms in 2023
Shane Vega VP of Marketing
The past year has been earth-shattering across many industries. The culprit? Digital transformation. New technologies are completely revolutionizing the way we interact with our environment, and that includes the way we view and manage control rooms.
Control rooms are traditionally used to monitor and maintain large-scale operations such as manufacturing plants, data centers, power grids, or transportation systems. As technology evolves over time, so does the need for efficient and flexible operation centers.
Let's explore six trends affecting control rooms and operation centers in 2023.
1. Advanced Operator Workstations
AV solutions for operator workstations in control rooms used to be quite limited; they could only handle a certain number of sources, for instance, and oftentimes their user interfaces were archaic and unintuitive.
But modern AV solutions are coming out at a breakneck pace – and IT protocols are paving the way for innovative solutions such as AV as a Service (AVaaS).
Future workstations will revolutionize the way operators work in control rooms. These solutions are slated to provide significantly greater capabilities, like:
Unlimited source management, control, and interactivity
Powerful data analytics and visualization
Secure management and scaling of essential control room applications
Proprietary hardware-free operations
Immensely reduced downtime
The implications for operators and their organizations are clear: greater efficiency, better insights, and vastly improved control.
2. Digital Transformation
Roles across all industries are being upstaged by automation, and control rooms are no exception. Digital transformation is the process of automating and digitizing operations, which can help reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve safety.
This year will witness a significant acceleration in digital transformation initiatives within control rooms; we’ll see fewer manual processes taking place on-site and more data analytics occurring in the cloud.
Automation technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and natural language processing (NLP) are already being used to automate certain tasks that would otherwise require human intervention – and this trend will only continue to grow throughout 2023.
3. Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs)
Human-machine interfaces (HMIs)are computer systems that help people control and monitor industrial processes. They replace traditional switches and controls with digital ones, making it easier to adjust and interact with a control process.
HMIs allow operators to start and stop cycles, change settings, and perform other functions. The software is designed to act as a bridge between the human operator and the complex logic of one or more programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or remote terminal units (RTUs).
In the context of control rooms, HMIs are becoming increasingly important. There is a growing need for operators to interact with and monitor the control process more easily and efficiently, while also providing a valuable layer of data analytics that can help improve safety and performance.
When it comes to operation center security, obscurity does not equal security. Why? Because the vast majority of audiovisual solutions are now linked to the internet with operating systems and modifiable memory. This characteristic leaves them open to security threats.
Control room platforms are coming up with stronger security strategies, such as:
Allowing administrators to decide on the extent of network and internet access for the server.
Deploying backup on-premise servers for failover, ensuring no downtime on displays even during complete re-imaging and re-installation.
Keeping the on-premise server physically secured in the server room and the option to run it completely air-gapped.
Offering the choice to manage the platform through the cloud through secure HTTPS.
Facilitating cloud interaction through an encrypted proprietary protocol using browser-based tools, eliminating the need for additional software applications.
Relying on commercially available off-the-shelf hardware with a familiar BIOS and hardware stack, reducing the risk of unidentified attack points.
In 2023, companies need to remember that as security measures evolve, so too do security threats. It's better to position yourself on the front foot with a robust security strategy – especially in the control room, where security for networked displays and video walls is critical.
Most industries have improved dramatically in the area of communication and collaboration. The pandemic encouraged boundaries to be broken and new possibilities to be explored; control rooms have seen a surge in the adoption of collaboration tools and technologies as a result.
In 2023, there will be more use of video conferencing and real-time data sharing to help control room operators make better decisions.
6. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Gartner predictsthat, by 2026, a quarter of the population will spend at least one hour daily using metaverse-related tech – whether for entertainment, education, or work.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are quickly becoming more commonplace in operation centers and control rooms. In 2023, they will be used to provide an immersive experience for operators, allowing them to interact with emergency situations and data visualizations in a more realistic 3D environment.
For example, VR can be used to simulate and practice emergency procedures before they happen, giving operators the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment. With AR, information such as instructions or warnings can be overlaid onto physical objects or environments for better understanding and visibility.
Advanced Operator Workstations: A Must-Have in 2023
Of all the greatest trends for control rooms in 2023, the shift to advanced operator workstations is the most transformative. Userful’s Diamond Decisions and uConduct solution eliminates the need for unnecessary hardware such as encoders and decoders, and enables operators to monitor the control room from a single KVM (keyboard, video, mouse).
The latest installment within our Diamond Decisions application, uConduct, is designed to empower advanced operator workstations to provide the most efficient, scalable and secure operation center for any industry. Users can load personalized virtual video wall layouts to view live sources; without limiting the number of sources they have access to.
uConduct includes soft-KVM functionality for quick and efficient control of multiple sources directly from operator workstations. Unlike other soft-KVM solutions requiring separate hardware to support web sources, uConduct is able to directly manage any web source configured and hosted within our platform.