Download PDF version Contact company

How leading EOC's maximise operationally and resource efficiency

Network-based technologies such as IoT, machine learning, and cloud computing are rapidly transforming control and operations centres including mission-critical Emergency Operation Centres (EOCs), allowing them to maximise operational, and resource, efficiency. The primary functions of any operations centre include:

  • Collecting, analysing, and sharing critical information
  • Prioritising and coordinating various departments and units
  • Addressing (and anticipating) risks
  • And for EOC's: supporting First Responders in emergencies

Paradigm shifts in networking and technology have been transforming EOC's for years—putting even greater emphasis on operational efficiency, real-time processing, communications between entities, data-driven reporting, and analysis of multiple and varying information streams for qualitative and strategic decision-making. In this blog, we overview how EOC's are adapting to rapid changes—and to the additional challenges raised during COVD 19—to remain highly efficient, prepared, and secure.

Hardware vs software-based control rooms

Emergency operations centres lead emergency management, ensure continuity of operations during a natural or human-made disaster, and optimise communications to maximise efficiency—such as dispatch of resources and guidelines—while minimising delays and risks. EOC's typically consist of multiple interconnected displays and computational devices

Depending on the size of the operations and the centre’s jurisdiction, EOC's typically oversee decision making, delegating tactical decisions and field asset control to lower commands, such as call centres and law enforcement bodies. EOCs collect and analyse data to dissipate holistic, priority-driven, and timely guidance to entities that are eclipsed by their unique and specific functions.

EOC's typically consist of multiple interconnected displays and computational devices: one or multiple video walls, desktop computers, telecommunications devices, and other devices. They house numerous operators, managers, first responders, support staff and other authorised personnel who collaboratively manage the operations centre, its network, departments, and vital services. They are secure and usually inaccessible to the general public and are themselves equipped with tight security protocols and measures such as surveillance.

Operation centres and its constituents are thus at the brain and heart of the organisation—topmost in line of command, and critical to its functioning.

Maximising analytics for mission-critical operations

In order to make reliable decisions, emergency operation centres require situational awareness. Situational awareness refers to an up-to-date, astute, and pre-emptive understanding of circumstances. Most applicable to mission-critical operations, such as those concerning health and defence, situational awareness is beneficial to any process where efficient and tactical decision-making is required.

Situational awareness can be understood in simpler terms with the example of driving a car; where a driver is simultaneously mindful of road signs and intersections, their vehicle's speed and fuel tank, weather and road conditions, and oncoming traffic in order to safely and quickly travel from point A to point B.

By definition, emergency operations require situational awareness and context—based on environmental factors, resources, risks, time—in order to make meaningful and effective decisions.

This raises the question: how can technology help emergency operation centres maximise their situational awareness?

High-level information

Video and visualised data are effective and efficient ways to provide situational awareness to emergency operations.

EOCs operate on actionable high-level information—that synthesise large streams of data over a state/local region Since EOCs are top in the line of commands, they do not typically analyse or engage with field assets, namely: vehicles, inventories, or technicians. Instead, they coordinate with departments, government officials, and units: such as first-response teams, school districts, and law enforcement offices.

Therefore, EOCs operate on actionable high-level information—that synthesise large streams of data over a state/local region and leverages their access to hundreds and thousands of video systems. This high-level information can be presented using:

  • Geospatial Reports or GIS maps to track disease spread, border security, medical services, roads and highways, weather, wildfires and air quality.
  • Data-driven Dashboards that group and summarise data through key performance indicators (KPIs), benchmarks, and levels of risks. They can thus condense and even automate tracking of information such as power supply and energy consumption, the volume of emergency calls, movement of traffic etc.
  • Management and Process Reports that coordinate resources, the status of various steps in the crisis management pipeline
  • Video Feeds such as CCTV or IP Cameras, or even social media and news channels provide EOCs a natural and real-time outlook to supplement their decision-making. Within a control centre, these feeds are watched by operators to provide the most informative view, such as traffic cameras on arterial roadways.

Because the information has to be high-level, digestible, and viewable to dozens of professionals, it is almost always visual in nature. In order for EOCs to make quick and holistic decisions, they trade-off management for efficiency; delegating execution and more actionable decisions to their subordinate units.

While they will have access to most information within the organisation, EOCs do not typically analyse raw data such as text documents, spreadsheets etc and instead opt for visual data: images, videos, infographic reports, and flowcharts. The combination of raw visual data (like CCTV streams) and processed visual data (such as KPI reports) maximise situational and contextual awareness.

For example, in instances of wildfires, emergency centres will often have a map displayed on a large video wall, to track the spread of a wildfire using satellite data. The EOC can overlap this with data points from weather radars and sensors to forecast how a wildfire might spread using precipitation/humidity, wind speed, and wind direction—collected in real-time. They can then alert local authorities to prepare dispatch, identify areas that require evacuation and activate incident management systems (IMS) for public alerts. The emergency operation centre may also work in conjunction with other organisations, such as the Centre for Preparedness and Response (CPR), and Traffic Control Centres (TCCs) to validate their decisions, and optimise resources and public safety.

How technology that is reshaping emergency operations

High-resolution video, new content sources such as drones and streamed, real-time video from cell phones as well as technology changes such as computer vision and AI are greatly enhancing situational awareness and helping EOC's reduce response times.

Any EOC investing in new solutions today must prioritise an open platform that delivers maximum flexibility to ensure they can take advantage of all these developments as well as new technologies and solutions that will come online in the future. A specific example: organisations deploying a video wall for their EOC should not invest in proprietary or specialised hardware.

The AV industry has moved from hardware-based to software, cloud, and IP-based processing. To maintain service levels now and in the future, to ensure emergency preparedness, provide situational awareness and decrease response times, EOCs need to move to Network and software-based models that can be easily integrated with new technologies including AI, computer vision, streaming video and more.

Visual networking platform

Userful's visual networking platform is an open and software-based platform that allows EOC's to deploy video walls and other displays to provide situational awareness for their operators and to ensure the staff in their EOC's are able to support first responders in the field.

Userful is unique in the field of display solutions for Operation Centres and control rooms that embrace an open approach: uses only commercially available off-the-shelf hardware instead of proprietary or specialised hardware.

It uses standard networking protocols, operating on the network in a way that allows IT teams to lock it down and manage it as they do any other traffic. It is a software solution with an API and an open technology approach ensuring a broad array of integrations and ensuring that customers can display any content required.

Integrates with third-party solutions

Userful includes all the features operators need to make it intuitive and easy to pull up content sources—video, weather maps, CCTV footage, news streams etc and display them however they wish on a video wall or display. Userful supports multi-window, picture-in-picture, allows windows to be dragged about in real-time. It is WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get a solution. This ease of use and flexibility is matched by its unique ability to integrate with third-party solutions. Userful integrates with VMS such as Network Optix that allow it to leverage Computer vision and advanced AI

For example, Userful integrates with Video Management Solutions such as Network Optix that allow it to leverage Computer vision and advanced AI to deliver real-time actionable intelligence to operators. For example, this combination allows for machine analysts of thousands of live video feeds using AI to detect a break-in or a traffic accident or an assault.

When the machine analysis identifies an incident of interest it will display that video (and the preceding few seconds of video) on a video wall. No human eye needs to continually scan those video feeds for an alert and operators don't need to wait until an incident is reported. This is the power of a computer vision solution that is easily integrated into the Useful platform for better situational awareness, improved response times and reduced operational labour.

Add-on solutions for EOC

Userful's open technology platform and Rest API ensure that customers can add on solutions needed for their EOC today but also those they may need in the future. This is exactly why Jefferson County's Emergency Operation Centre turned to Userful.

According to Rob Herrington, Director of the 911 centre, "Flexibility is very important to us. We are constantly evolving and adding new tools—like drone video surveillance, and phone video streaming during 911 calls—and having a video wall that supports whatever we can think of implementing, it is a very powerful thing."

Cross-departmental collaboration

Userful's use of the network and its open technology approach to AV also ensure it's flexible in how video content is streamed and shared. Userful supports remote access and allows remote supervisors to monitor and even interact with content on the EOC's video wall.

This ensures cross-departmental collaboration. In a Municipal EOC for example, staff in the mayor's office, the fire department or the police department could all be given access to allow view-only or even interactive access to the video wall in the EOC and the content displayed on it.

Emergency response is often a collaborative cross-departmental effort and information sharing across teams and departments is vital. Userful's flexibility and network-based architecture ensure it can support this requirement too.

Userful is the solution for EOC's looking for a video wall or LED wall to meet their needs today that also ensures they're able to add on new solutions, features and embrace new technologies to improve situational awareness of the future.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

How has security industry training changed in the last year?
How has security industry training changed in the last year?

In-person training sessions were mostly canceled during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the need for training continued, and in some cases increased, as the security industry sought to adapt to the changing business climate of a global emergency. So how well did we as an industry adjust? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How has security industry training changed in the last year?

Physical access control: Critical steps to ensure a smarter future
Physical access control: Critical steps to ensure a smarter future

Steven Kenny, Axis Communications, looks at the benefits of physical access control systems within smart environments, and how knowledge gaps and dated methods can inhibit adoption. Physical security is becoming more dynamic and more interconnected, as it evolves. Today’s modern access control solutions are about so much more than simply opening doors, with digitalisation bringing multiple business benefits, which would simply not be possible using traditional models. Digital transformation While the digital transformation of processes and systems was already well underway, across many industries and sectors, it is the transformation of physical security from a standalone, isolated circuit, to a network-enabled, intelligent security solution that brings many benefits to the smart environment. Yet, with more organisations now looking to bring their physical security provision up to date, there are many considerations that must be addressed to maximise the potential of access control and video surveillance. Not least of which is that connecting physical security devices to a network presents risk, so it is increasingly important for IT teams to play a role in helping to facilitate the secure integration of physical and network technologies, as these two worlds increasingly converge. Improved access control in smart environments These urban constructs are capable of reducing waste, driving efficiencies and optimising resources The smart city offers significant benefits, reflected in the US$ 189 billion that is anticipated to be spent on smart city initiatives globally by 2023. These urban constructs are capable of reducing waste, driving efficiencies, optimising resources and increasing citizen engagement. Technology, which is increasingly being incorporated to protect access points within the smart environment, can take many forms. These range from simple card readers to two factor authentication systems, using video surveillance as a secondary means of identification, right through to complex networks of thermal cameras, audio speakers and sensors. Frictionless access control During the COVID-19 pandemic, frictionless access control has provided an effective ‘hands free’ means of accessing premises, using methods such as QR code readers and facial recognition as credentials to prove identity. Frictionless access control brings health and safety into the equation, as well as the security of entrances and exits, minimising the risk of infection, by removing the need to touch shared surfaces. Such systems can be customised and scaled to meet precise requirements. Yet, an increasing integration with open technologies and platforms requires collaboration between the worlds of physical security and IT, in order to be successful. Barriers to adoption Traditional suppliers and installers of physical security systems have built up a strong business model around their expertise, service and knowledge. Network connectivity and the IoT (Internet of Things) present a constantly shifting landscape, requiring the traditional physical security vendor to learn the language of IT, of open platforms, IP connectivity and software integration, in order to adapt to market changes and remain relevant. Many are now beginning to realise that connected network-enabled solutions are here to stay Those who cannot adapt, and are simply not ready for this changing market, risk being left behind, as the physical security landscape continues to shift and demand continues to increase. With end users and buyers looking for smarter, more integrated and business-focused solutions from their suppliers, it is clear that only those who are prepared will succeed in this space. Time will not stand still, and many are now beginning to realise that connected network-enabled solutions are here to stay, particularly within smart constructs which rely on such technology by their very nature. The importance of cyber hygiene Connecting any device to a network has a degree of risk, and it is, therefore, imperative that any provider not only understands modern connected technologies, but also the steps necessary to protect corporate networks. Cameras, access control systems and IP audio devices, which have been left unprotected, can potentially become backdoors into a network and used as access points by hackers. These vulnerabilities can be further compromised by the proliferation of connected devices within the Internet of Things (IoT). While the connection of devices to a network brings many advantages, there is greater potential for these devices to be used against the very business or industry they have been employed to protect when vulnerabilities are exploited. Cyber security considerations Cyber security considerations should, therefore, be a key factor in the development and deployment of new security systems. Access control technologies should be manufactured according to recognised cyber security principles, incident reporting and best practices. It is important to acknowledge that the cyber integrity of a system is only as strong as its weakest link and that any potential source of cyber exposure will ultimately impact negatively on a device’s ability to provide the necessary high levels of physical security. The future of access control There is a natural dispensation towards purchasing low-cost solutions There is a natural dispensation towards purchasing low-cost solutions that are perceived as offering the same value as their more expensive equivalents. While some have taken the decision to implement such solutions, in an attempt to unlock the required benefits, while saving their bottom line, the limited lifespan of these technologies puts a heavier cost and reputational burden onto organisations by their association. The future of access control, and of physical security as a whole, will, therefore, be dependent on the willingness of suppliers to implement new designs and new ways of thinking, based around high-quality products, and to influence the installers and others in their supply chains to embrace this new world. Cyber security key to keeping businesses safe In addition, cyber security considerations are absolutely vital for keeping businesses safe. The integration of cyber secure technologies from trusted providers will provide peace of mind around the safety or corporate networks, and integrity of the deployed technologies. As we move forward, access control systems will become data collection points and door controllers will become intelligent I/O devices. QR codes for visitor management and biometric face recognition for frictionless access control will increasingly be managed at the edge, as analytics in a camera or sensor. The future of access control presents an exciting and challenging time for those ready to accept it, to secure it and to help shape it, offering a true opportunity to innovate for a smarter, safer world.

Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach
Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach

The 2020s will be a wireless decade in access control, says Russell Wagstaff from ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEA. He examines the trends data, and looks beyond mobile keys to brand new security roles for the smartphone. The benefits of wire-free electronic access control are well rehearsed. They are also more relevant than ever. A wireless solution gives facility managers deeper, more flexible control over who should have access, where and when, because installing, operating and integrating them is easier and less expensive than wiring more doors. Battery powered locks Many procurement teams are now aware of these cost advantages, but perhaps not their scale. Research for an ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions (AAOS) benchmarking exercise found installation stage to be the largest contributor to cost reduction. Comparing a typical installation of battery-powered Aperio locks versus wired locks at the same scale, the research projected an 80% saving in installers’ labour costs for customers who go cable-free. Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks Operating costs are also lower for wireless: Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks, which normally work via magnets connected permanently to electricity. Wireless locks only ‘wake up’ when presented with a credential for which they must make an access decision. AAOS estimated a 70% saving in energy use over a comparable lock’s lifetime. Find out more about wireless access control at ASSA ABLOY's upcoming 29th June webinar Deploying wireless locks In short, every time a business chooses a wireless lock rather than a wired door, they benefit from both installation and operating cost savings. A recent report from IFSEC Global, AAOS and Omdia reveals the extent to which the advantages of wireless are cutting through. Responses to a large survey of security professionals — end-users, installers, integrators and consultants serving large corporations and small- to medium-sized organisations in education, healthcare, industrial, commercial, infrastructure, retail, banking and other sectors — suggest almost four locations in ten (38%) have now deployed wireless locks as a part or the whole of their access solution. The corresponding data point from AAOS’s 2014 Report was 23%. Electronic access control Electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling Without doubt, electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling: Even after a year when many investments have been deferred or curtailed, the data reveals fast-growing adoption of wireless locks, technologies and systems. Is mobile access control — based on digital credentials or ‘virtual keys’ stored on a smartphone — an ideal security technology for this wire-free future? In fact, the same report finds mobile access is growing fast right now. Among those surveyed, 26% of end-users already offer mobile compatibility; 39% plan to roll out mobile access within two years. Before the mid-2020s, around two-thirds of access systems will employ the smartphone in some way. The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights Driving rapid adoption What is driving such rapid adoption? The convenience benefits for everyday users are obvious — witness the mobile boom in banking and payments, travel or event ticketing, transport, food delivery and countless more areas of modern life. Access control is a natural fit. If you have your phone, you are already carrying your keys: What could be easier? IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022 Less often discussed are the ways mobile management makes life easier for facility and security managers, too. Among those polled for the new Wireless Access Control Report, almost half (47%) agreed that ‘Mobile was more flexible than physical credentials, and 36% believe that mobile credentials make it easier to upgrade employee access rights at any time.’ IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022. Workers in every impacted sector require solutions which can get the job done from anywhere: Access management via smartphone offers this. Site management device The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights. For example, one new reporting and analytics tool for CLIQ key-based access control systems uses an app to collect, visualise and evaluate access data. Security system data could contribute to business success. The app’s clear, visual layout helps managers to instantly spot relevant trends, anomalies or patterns. It’s simple to export, to share insights across the business. Reinvented for learning — not just as a ‘key’ or site management device — the phone will help businesses make smarter, data-informed decisions. The smartphone will also play a major role in security — and everything else — for an exciting new generation of smart buildings. These buildings will derive their intelligence from interoperability. Over 90% of the report’s survey respondents highlighted the importance of integration across building functions including access control, CCTV, alarm and visitor management systems. Genuinely seamless integration They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term Yet in practice, stumbling blocks remain on the road to deeper, genuinely seamless integration. More than a quarter of those polled felt held back by a lack of solutions developed to open standards. ‘Open standards are key for the momentum behind the shift towards system integration,’ notes the Report. As well as being more flexible, open solutions are better futureproofed. Shared standards ensure investments can be made today with confidence that hardware and firmware may be built on seamlessly in the future. They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term. Open solutions and mobile management are critical to achieving the goals which end-users in every vertical are chasing: scalability, flexibility, sustainability, cost-efficiency and convenience.