AV/IT in the control room: choosing the right solutions

For AV integrators, the control room market is at once a vibrant opportunity and a frustrating challenge.

In terms of an opportunity, the vertical is experiencing significant growth, with spending in Europe alone expected to reach over US$1.9 billion by 2022, according to research from AVIXA. Sub applications, such as command and control, surveillance, and utilities and processing, are also seeing especially high demand, driven mainly by the need for new integrations of videowalls.

The challenge side of the equation lies in the growing number of applications in which knowledge of both AV and IT are required - even as the industry is rapidly transitioning to a ubiquitous AV/IT future, AV engineers without a working knowledge of IT can face considerable barriers to entry. When control room customers are demanding increased situational awareness, improved resource allocation, and a tangible return on investment, what kinds of solutions does an experienced systems integrator need to find in order to overcome these barriers and satisfy client needs?

Enabling Data Visualization is Key
One area where the integration of AV and IT technology is clearly manifest is a video wall, the centerpiece of any modern control room.  

A government command control center, for example, relies on rich content integration and seamless mass-distribution of critical instructions. The SI must provide a solution that can transmit that content to both videowalls and multiple operator consoles with ease and no lag.

In scenarios such as surveillance control rooms, meanwhile, where video walls must be operational 24/7, shared visualisation is forefront for a complete overview and better situational awareness.

To accomplish this, the SI needs to integrate IT and Pro A/V solutions such as KVM over IP extenders and matrix switches that can work together to deliver high-performance image quality to multiple display videowalls as well to desk console stations for mission-critical operations. The solution must be able to transmit integrated information and visual details in resolutions up to 4K to allow for more accurate monitoring, contact collaboration, and proper responses for situations.

Network security is critical
A major IT-related factor that any SI designing a control room solution will need to take into account is managing network security to protect mission critical data.

In the scenario of a utilities & process control center, for example, a system can use the network to support the remote management of servers as well as provide local and remote data center access from the communication control department to the dispatch center.

Military command control centres also require multi-classification levels for system operation and data access, as well as system authentication and secure data distribution.

The AV integrator will have to utilize KVM products that provide secure, reliable access to any system across multiple security domains for 24/7 operation, adjustable authority levels, encrypted communication and log ins, virtual media data encryption, and vital rapid failover/backup support for systems and operation, from local and offsite.

The chosen KVM solution must also allow users with the corresponding security level to remotely access confidential servers on the intranet.

Provide intuitive access and scalability
Aside from data visualisation and network-readiness, it is also essential for SIs to consider needs for scalability, efficient space management, and the ability to provide a re-deployable architecture. To do this, they need to select solutions that have been built to meet needs in both AV and IT.

With new applications for IT technology like KVM switches appearing in command and control rooms – environments that historically utilised a great deal of AV equipment – brands must now make solutions that combine these two functions. IP-based KVM systems also provide extension options beyond traditional keyboard-monitor-mouse, including server sharing, video extension, multicasting and built-in videowall functionality.

ATEN International offers solutions that were built with the inevitability of AV/IT convergence and the associated learning curve for integrators in mind. The company has in recent years put an especially strong focus on the control room market, working to understand the increasingly complexity of the sector and develop products that help integrators meet client demands without requiring a lot of time to catch up on IT basics.

Download the ATEN Control Room Solutions Guide for more details on projects and related solutions

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