More Functional Control Rooms Booming Worldwide
Apr 13, 2006 8:00 AM,
By John McKeon
Corporate and business users large and small are driving a worldwide surge in command and control facilities for every purpose from enterprise-wide security to assuring that local hardware and home improvement stores are stocking up on everything people will need to prepare for an approaching hurricane.
Corporations have long been major customers for command and control systems, of course. But these days the market is growing in new directions and changing in character.
“The percentage of facilities based on PR value is less than it used to be,” says Kevin Barlow, director of sales at Christie Digital, referring to the once-common tendency to design a big “wow” factor into control rooms to impress visiting customers and potential business partners. “The great majority of the Network Operations Centers out there now are putting functionality first,” Barlow adds.
That functionality can be as complex as a worldwide system to protect a company’s intellectual property, or as “nitty gritty” as helping retailers get ready for a run on plywood.
Barlow cites major hardware and home improvement companies that have used control rooms to be sure their outlets in an area threatened by a major storm are fully stocked with all the things shoppers will need to prepare for the storm or make repairs afterward.
One difference in this scenario is that these control rooms are used “as needed,” in contrast to the 24/7, no-downtime requirements imposed on many other corporate applications.
“Different industries modernize at different times. Each is different and has a different upgrade cycle. In the power industry, cycles tend to be long, but they may be much faster in, for example, business communications,” says John Stark, marketing director at Jupiter Systems.
Stark says power companies continue to be major adopters of control rooms, particularly in the wake of recent brownouts on the East Coast. Telecom, in contrast, “is dead right now, due to the over-abundance of earlier capacity. They are just beginning to use this new capacity.”
Both Stark and Barlow see a major trend for IP networking in control facilities, since IP offers great flexibility to accommodate a wide range of input types and adapt data for display in different sizes and configurations.
“I truly believe that more traditional analog systems will go away as IP or network based systems come on stream,” Stark says. “The moment is just about to tip in its favor.”
Display wall controllers and software to run walls are also becoming more critical components of control centers.
“Right now, the size of control rooms going in are not larger than before,” Stark says. “In many instances they are getting smaller and more focused. The number of screens is staying steady, but the amount of information coming in has grown considerably, so processors have to get bigger to handle the increased input.”
The control room market is also going global in a big way. “India and China are huge growth markets,” Barlow says.
“India is positioning itself to become the next China and it finds that in order to do that, it must invest in beefing up its infrastructure, water, power, and utilities,” Stark says. “Eastern Europe and Russia are also waking up to the need to provide better service to their citizens.”