Barco, Winsted Unite to Enhance Mission-Critical Environments

Published: April 11, 2023
Photo courtesy of Winsted.

Rapid changes and massive data flow have impacted every vertical, each bringing its own set of challenges and opportunities, and with some facing more than others. By virtue of the critical and sensitive nature of their function, the stakes are way higher than normal in mission-critical spaces like control rooms and command centers. Operators’ ability to maintain situational awareness and sharp focus can have life-or-death consequences, after all.

That’s why commercial AV vendors who target this category must embody several key virtues — namely, a customer-first mentality, exacting engineering standards, unflinching reliability, and extensive industry expertise. Two companies stand apart in their dedication to serve mission-critical environments, and it’s only fitting that they’ve maintained a longstanding partnership that empowers each to leverage the other’s strengths.

Here, these companies — Barco and Winsted — sit down to share key insights with Commercial Integrator, discussing the origins of their relationship, guidelines for control-room operators to maintain situational awareness and how the organizations collaborate to serve operators’ needs. Moreover, they offer tips for how to create optimal mission-critical spaces. 

Barco and Winsted: A Long-Term Relationship 

Although Barco and Winsted continue to expand their working relationship, its origins date back years. More than a decade back, Randy Smith, president of Winsted, and Hans Dekeyser, at the time a Barco executive, recognized the complementarity of their businesses. “Hans and I had a great relationship — still do!” Smith reflects, calling him a good friend. Even more important was the organizational alignment. “For two companies in the mission-critical control room — both best in class — it made sense to collaborate,” he continues, pointing to mutual interests and characterizing the synergy as “awesome.”

Over the years, both organizations have transformed. And yet, the relationship continues to blossom under the current leadership of Mike Benson, VP – Americas. As Alina Mishra, Barco’s global field and channel marketing lead, describes it, “The continuation of the relationship — preserving it and moving it forward — is a hand-and-glove kind of a situation.” That is, it simply fits. After all, Winsted builds specialized consoles to serve operator needs in mission-critical applications. Meanwhile, Barco specializes in the mission-critical tech infrastructure (e.g., videowalls, processing, control room software) that populates those consoles.

What’s more, Mishra affirms that the organizations have a near-perfect alignment on core values. “The focus on quality, engineering, security, reliability [and] longevity,” she lists, “these are some common aspects that Winsted values as much as Barco. So, all of a sudden, you have an ecosystem partner that aligns and works very well with you.” This enables better customer outcomes and improved value proposition for the market. “Together, we are more powerful than we are individually,” Mishra declares. 

Coming Together 

So, you might be wondering, how exactly do Barco and Winsted partner? Mishra confirms that the companies work together from a sales, engineering and marketing standpoint. For example, the partnership has meant co-exhibiting at key industry events. “You have these very good-looking, hi-tech Winsted consoles, and then you have all that powerful and attractive Barco equipment out there. Together, it makes for a great setup.” Especially compelling is the possibility of leveraging that full-system visibility to plant a seed in the customer’s mind for what their own environment could one day look like. 

That brings us to the raison d’etre for both — the end customer — namely, the control-room stakeholders. According to these industry leaders, serving mission-critical customers centers on exactly one thing: helping them maintain situational awareness and resolve scenarios. Smith describes distractions in mission-critical environments as a constant worry. If, for example, there is foot traffic and the operator looks up from the screen, they could easily miss an alarm. “How long is he distracted?” Smith asks rhetorically. “On average, three to four seconds. Now, he’s already three to four seconds behind on reacting.”

The criticality of situational awareness becomes even clearer when you consider the breadth of data that operators must manage. Indeed, Smith mentions a casino in Minnesota that has more than 4,000 datapoints coming into the control room. “That’s 4,000 potential alarms that could go off,” he says. Combine those two together and you can have a cascade of situations that can easily build up to a disaster! Hence, the need to be on top of the game constantly.  

Situational Awareness and Space Optimization 

Both Mishra and Smith empathize with control-room operators, who sometimes work 10-plus-hour shifts and who must never let their concentration flag. “There’s a lot of fatigue for an operator,” Smith acknowledges, “and we’re there to help them.” One way the companies do so is through ergonomics and thoughtful design. For example, Smith says, Winsted frequently recommends sit/stand consoles, which can increase operator alertness. There is, in fact, considerable evidence to bolster the hypothesis that people are more alert when they’re standing.

Another key consideration centers on uniformity. In well-designed control rooms, every workstation is set up the same (i.e., identical positioning of the phone, intercom, keyboard/mouse, etc.). “So,” Smith says, “it doesn’t matter which workstation you go to. You know exactly what the workstation feels like and operates like. It’s easy.” 

But this is still just scratching the surface. Smith points to comfort-related considerations like utilizing Comfort Edge, a soft, urethane edge on the front of work surfaces that helps operators sit their forearms correctly. He also touts the benefits of articulating monitor arms.

But arguably most important of all are line-of-sight considerations. “If you’re sitting or standing, what is the line of sight over the monitors that are at your workstation?” Smith asks rhetorically. “Can you see the entire videowall that Barco has put up?” Speaking directly to that imperative, WELS (Winsted Equipment Layout Software) control room design software is an excellent tool. With it, the designer can lay out the displays, consoles and even the locations of people in the environment. WELS boasts a “sight cone” function, which reveals whether any obstructions exist. 

For its part, Barco focuses on ergonomics not only to facilitate comfort, efficiency and productivity but also to preserve health. “TruePix, our marquee LED videowall, has a unique algorithm specifically designed to reduce eye fatigue,” Mishra reports. Control-room operators routinely must stare at multiple screens for hours on end, which wears their eyes out faster.

“We changed the algorithm to literally give it breaks so that the eye gets less fatigued,” she says. Similarly, operator convenience that then aids in boosting productivity, lies at the heart of Barco’s design philosophy. “We recently launched a highly secure, simple and scalable control-room software management platform: Barco CTRL,” Mishra explains. “The solution is focused on providing a powerful and intuitive user experience for the operator to allow them to focus better.”  

Helping Facilitate Better Outcomes 

It’s well known that control-room operators have a tough and critical job. Equally, integrators looking to outfit these spaces have a tall order if they’re going to facilitate the kind of situational awareness that operators require. That’s why vendors like Barco and Winsted are so focused on getting things right each time.

Smith references Winsted’s “3D” process for mission-critical spaces — Discovery, Design and Deliver. The “Discovery” phase is paramount, as it gives project partners the best chance of succeeding. In that phase, Winsted representatives will sit in the control room, watch the activity occurring and see where operator distractions emerge. “Basically,” he says, “we’re trying to mitigate fatigue and distraction so they can watch the content on the Barco displays.” Smith recalls one recent visit to a security operations center where, during the course of a day, various people opened and closed one door about 125 times. As is obvious, disturbances of that sort can easily inhibit operator performance. 

As Smith puts it, “It’s up to the manager of the control room to support their staff and set them up to succeed. This happens by mitigating distraction and providing the best possible resources.” Those operations managers have a trusted team to call on: Barco and Winsted, companies united in purpose and working together.

It’s a difference maker not only for control-room operators but also for the entire mission-critical category. “It just makes perfect sense to be aligned,” Smith concludes with enthusiasm. “Our history and ability to remain aligned only makes this process more effective and enjoyable,” Mishra agrees. 

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