In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, control rooms will be the nerve centres that ensure safety, protect critical infrastructure and assets and ensure efficiency and quality. However, while they will rely on everything from the internet of things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI), it is important to design environments that look after people, says managing director of Intellisec, Denzil Steyn.

As head of an intelligent site management and security systems installer and integrator, Steyn believes that people will always be the common denominator.

Technology is the invaluable enabler.

“Research has shown us that it is not humanly possible to stare at a screen for 12 hours and still pick up anomalies. These have to be identified by intelligence that doesn’t tire, where there’s no fatigue. This is where AI comes in. It provides the intelligence that empowers  staff to work effectively. We are taking well educated, capable and competent people and enabling them to work smarter,” he explains.

He uses a security guard who would have randomly walked around the perimeter of an industrial site looking for potential breaches a few years ago as an example. Today, technology can flag a potential threat, identify the level, and then equip that employee to respond accordingly without putting lives in danger.

Data is also not limited to security and the installation of  CCTV cameras. Instead control rooms are now the interface between a wide range of different technologies that provide real time and user-friendly data that equips decision makers to do everything from optimizing output to curbing potential revenue loss through minimizing downtime or even spotting something as mundane as a water leak.

“We design and build control rooms in order to create neural centres for businesses to not only manage security but also pull through alerts from fire detection systems, health monitoring on fire detections systems, access control and alerts from the IoT devices that we install on site,” he explains.

“We do not put in a CCTV camera so that, after the fact, a client can view something. For us, it is about providing solutions that make a site and company smarter, more efficient and more effective in what they do. With proper oversight, a business can manage by exception. That way, the managing director can pay attention to other, more important parts of a business,” Steyn continues.

Examples of what can be achieved are two multi-million-rand control rooms that Intellisec recently completed for companies within the automotive sector. As the nerve centres of these highly complex production plants, they combine ergonomics and aesthetics with the complex technology needed to ensure that operators can work optimally.

Most control rooms are tailor-made to the needs of clients and these latest two have accommodated 14 and four operators respectively. Although the smaller facilities are probably more relatable to most South African businesses, Intellisec’s systems have proven effective across an extremely broad spectrum of industries.

These include large manufacturing plants, mines, shopping malls and retail centres, logistics and distribution facilities and even large residential estates.

Speaking of Intellisec’s latest control room refurbishment in the Eastern Cape, Steyn describes the existing facility as cold, grey and without windows. Even the chairs on which operators perched for more than eight hours a day were 15 years old.   

The new centre, which was designed from scratch, not only includes state-of-the-art technology but pays attention to the smallest details – from dimmable lights to ergonomic chairs, from colour co-ordinated carpeted floors to a break away room complete with a kitchenette and rest and recuperation area. Intellisec paid attention to the distance between chairs and desks to minimize neck strain and elevated supervisors’ desks to provide a bird’s eye view of the entire facility.

“Ultimately, we are giving our clients something that takes into account the needs of the people working in that control room. This is where everything starts. Design a control room that looks after your people so that they feel valued. We can’t ask people to perform in an environment in which they feel uncomfortable, hot, uninspired,” he notes. 

IntelliSEC’s people focus extends beyond ergonomics and design, Steyn continues. The company employs certified engineers to commission a new control room to ensure that all systems are fully integrated and that the company is leveraging all the capabilities of the technology that has been installed.

Although Steyn describes IntelliSEC as primarily a technology business, the company also trains operators to run the highly sophisticated control rooms that it installs.

“Although we are not there to man control rooms, we empower on site controllers to work with the tools that we provide. We build systems for businesses to provide them with reliable, valuable data and to enable greater qualitative work while lowering operational costs and saving time” Steyn explains.

An infographic showing an IntelliSEC Empowered Control Room System
The interior of a control room recently installed by IntelliSEC.

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