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Control Rooms Summit: Content Chair interview

Control Rooms Summit Content Chair Chris Dreyfus-Gibson talks about how the summit will address the issues around the sheer volume of data that comes into the modern control room.

Reprising his role as Content Chair for the Control Rooms Summit at ISE 2023, Chris Dreyfus-Gibson is looking forward to a return to normality after the disruptions brought about by the pandemic in the past two years.

His aim is to continue the conversation from the previous year, when the focus was on designing a new critical control room, and explore how data, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are impacting the operational side of control rooms in general.

The theme for the 2023 summit is ‘How the Continual Rise of Data is Changing Control Rooms’. It will feature case studies and presentations by expert speakers from across the academia, supplier, and user communities around four key topic areas: operations, people, technology, and environment and ergonomics.

Over the past decades, he says, the amount of data that is potentially available to a control room operator or agent has increased hugely. “The problem with data is that you’ve got to do something with it. I’ve got to put it in a format that I can understand in order to carry out an analysis on it, which then allows me to derive insights from the data and take the appropriate action.”

He adds: “In theory, the more data we have, the better the decision that we make. The action that we take is more relevant. It’s more finely tuned to the situation.”

At the same time, there is a danger that the sheer volume of data flowing in could overwhelm a control room operator, raising the risk that the information is not used correctly or even at all. “The conversation I want to have at the summit is to say, look, we know we have all this data, what are we doing about it? How are we transforming that data really quickly?” 

For the AV sector in particular, the challenge is how to visualise all this data in a way that makes sense to the individual operators and agents. “Is it a big screen at the front? Is it an individual screen for the operator? Is it virtual reality … or could it be a 3D hologram model of the thing that you’re dealing with?"

As an example, what if control room operators for London bus routes were able to see a 3D map of London that would allow them to understand traffic data and make use of that data to control bus movements, he suggests.

A further, important element is how insights derived from the data are then shared with others. “Often when there’s an incident, you’re bringing together people of different disciplines in order to resolve that incident. And so as well as being able to understand the insights from data individually, how do I share that and then collaborate to come up with the best decision or the best course of action? So I’d quite like to see where that sort of collaborative technology has moved to as well,” he says.

Dreyfus-Gibson is Vice Chairman and co-founder of the International Critical Control Rooms Alliance (ICCRA) and leads citizen contact consulting in the UK for a global consultancy supporting public sector organisations to reimagine the contact experience for citizens. In his role as consultant, he has also specialised in critical control rooms and operational command, working with the emergency services, transport organisations, and the wider public and private sectors. Previously, he was Head of the Force Control Room at the British Transport Police.