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Command Centers Train Astronauts, Maintain Safety

It’s a multidisplay world out there

The control center for the security systems at the Statue of Liberty is actually located on neighboring Ellis Island. The display wall uses an RGB Spectrum processor.

Command and control centers are increasingly using high-definition video to help operators make better decisions, whether it’s preparing for the next generation of space flight, responding to mass transit emergencies or keeping tourists safe at the Statute of Liberty.

The nerve centers in today’s high-tech world, command and control centers feature massive video walls that allow security personnel to monitor often a wide range of activity from one central location. A centralized response location is important because resources can be summoned quickly, especially to a law enforcement or transportation incident. High tech video is even more critical because additional clarity helps operators better determine the exact nature of an incident they may witness onscreen.

Integrators used an RGB Spectrum MediaWall 2900 display processor to power the four displays (arranged two by two) that comprise the video wall at the Statue of Liberty’s nerve center on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. It added considerable image processing capabilities to enable display of 150 high-resolution IP camera feeds, said Bob Marcus, president and CEO of RGB Spectrum, based in Alameda, Calif.

“Our MediaWall processor configures real-time information display on the video wall,” said Marcus. “Operating with 24/7 reliability, the processor enhances operator awareness, essential for a security system tasked with protecting such an important part of America’s culture and history.”

The company ramped things up this year with the introduction of its MediaWall V, a UHD video wall processor that offers 4K resolution, single-wire connectivity and fully scalable windows, said Bob Ehlers, vice president of RGB Spectrum’s marketing and vertical market development.

A true video wall is not just a built partition of adjacently mounted monitors—it is a continuous multiscreen surface that displays a combination of graphics and video, Ehlers said. Not all systems that claim to be 4K wall processors provide video synchronization, required for the seamless display of high-motion graphics, Ehlers said. However, the MediaWall V delivers all these.

Today’s video walls have leapt beyond the emergency call center, he said. They are used in numerous industrial applications, such as the ongoing global search for crude oil. Instead of poring through computer screens of printed geophysical reports, engineers can now enter video “caves” where they view the underground topography and look for caches of hidden petroleum, Ehlers said. With the advance of computing power and memory, more data can be easily converted to video images where it is more effortlessly understood.

“In addition to the Internet of Things, we now have what I call the video-fication of things,” said Ehlers. “Think about normal day-to-day life. How much of daily information is taken in visually? People are visually oriented. It’s all about the pictures and sound.”


Apantac T-Sharp multiviewer chassis

Apantac, headquartered in Portland, Ore., manufactures multiviewers that offer a different take on display presentation.

The new T Sharp multiviewer series offers almost endless duplication. The series allows input sources to be duplicated up to 64 times (on a single display), said Thomas Tang, Apantac’s president.

“You may have one camera but it needs to be seen on everybody’s monitor in the control room,” Tank said. “With the T Sharp, you don’t have to have a matrix switch, but can configure it from the T Sharp. It may not be a particular incident but a corner that everyone should be looking at.”

Apantac promotes its ability to make devices that provide seamless integration across the multi-source environment. The company’s Tahoma universal platform offers a suite of multiviewers that display a variety of video and computer-multimedia signal types, Tang said.

“You have to have a device that will mix and match all on the same display surface,” Tang said.


NASA is building a new payload control center for the International Space Station in Huntsville, Ala., and the space agency is using the IP-based KVM solutions from Adder Technology to make it work. The AdderLink Infinity series devices enable the creation of a flexible infrastructure, allowing a computer and its operator to be separated by almost any distance but linking them over a gigabit network.

AdderLink Infinity KVM receiver module

“The AdderLink Infinity series provides high-quality extension, allowing a computer and its operator to be separated by almost any distance without any loss in capabilities, reduction in video resolution, quality or USB latency,” said Tim Conway, vice president of Adder, which is based in Newbury Park, Mass. “This guaranteed lack of delay with pixel-perfect resolution makes them ideal for mission-critical environments like command and control centers.”

None of the control centers would have anything to display without a high-quality monitor like the 55-inch Panasonic TH-55LFV70 LED video wall device. With a narrow bezel and high definition, it shows vivid images across multiple displays, making it a good choice for command and control applications. It features flexible installation and maintenance with the company’s Digital Link feature, as well as a “Failover and Failback” function that maintains continuous signal distribution even when some inputs are accidentally disrupted.


When the Bouches-du-Rhône Fire & Rescue Department in France needed to upgrade its command center, it turned to Matrox Graphics Mura MPX cards to capture and display real-time, high-quality video and data from multiple sources on a large 12-display wall and a smaller four-display wall. Bouches-du-Rhône is in the south of France, named after the mouth of the Rhône River. It covers a largely urban area, overseeing operations for 62 fire stations serving most of the 2,000-square-mile territory. The video walls were built with NEC 50-inch X551UN displays and a custom support structure.

Matrox Mura MPX display wall processor cards

French officials were especially attracted to the Matrox Mura MPX cards, which dynamically merges data from a variety of information sources to help operators quickly resolve potential conflict situations. Matrox Mura MPX video wall processor cards mark a shift away from the traditional matrix switcher to a video wall paradigm. The boards feature universal input support for both digital and analog video signals (DVI, RGB/VGA, component, S-video, composite and SDI), so system operators can capture, composite, switch and display between numerous source types across scalable video walls.

“Matrox Mura MPX input/output boards delivered universal input support, which was important given the variety of baseband and IP sources that we wanted to display on our video walls,” said Didier Margotto, head of the emergency response center. The installation “helps us monitor a growing influx of real-time video and data, so we can make informed decisions more quickly during time-critical interventions.”

Matrox-based systems also get high marks because they are easy on the budget, said Helgi Sigurdsson, product manager for the company, headquartered in Montreal.

“Complex installations and product failures directly impact the bottom line, which is why system integrators invest in components from manufacturers like Matrox,” Sigurdsson said. “Matrox solutions require less cabling and wiring for easier and more cost-effective product installations, while fanless, high-reliability designs ensure long product life cycles for maximum ROI.

“With less downtime and minimal system disruptions, control room operators can remain focused on providing quick and efficient responses,” Sigurdsson said.

Integrators can uniquely combine multiple Matrox products to build and deliver complete control room solutions. At the operator level, Matrox C-Series and M-Series graphics cards drive high-resolution, multiscreen desktops of up to eight displays so operators can visualize more critical information at once, Sigurdsson said. In environments where desktops need to be extended and workstations remain centralized, Matrox Avio and Extio KVM extenders offer zero-compression, zero-latency transmission for real-time performance at remote stations.

“System integrators can use Mura boards as building blocks to construct high-density installations of up to 56 HD inputs and 56 HD outputs to fit even the most demanding control room,” Sigurdsson said.


Evertz Microsystems, based in Ontario, Canada, just released the new network based AV Distribution platform, the Evertz MMA-10G, that powers more robust routing and signal processing of AV equipment, said Matt Krstulja, the company’s AV sales director.

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“Unlike traditional AV distribution systems that are based on fixed matrix sizes, our platform takes advantage of our 10 Gigabit Ethernet software-defined video network infrastructure,” Krstulja said. “[Users] can start small and scale up to the entire enterprise. Because the platform is based on the principal of being interconnected, you can start to take advantage of concepts such as networked resources and normalization of signal types.”

Instead of connecting a video wall processor to a specific display wall, the Evertz system uses it as a pooled resource hanging off of the network. One or more processors can be used on demand in the command center, war room or conference room, Krstulja said. Additionally, the configuration allows users to send the video wall outputs to any point on the network; for example, multicasting to a backup center.

It was designed to be intuitive and user friendly, he said.

“Although this solution utilizes sophisticated network infrastructure, the deployment and management of the system was designed to be implemented by non-network engineers,” Krstulja said.

The systems are meant to be used as partnership tools, pooling together different aspects of a transit agency or police department, Krstulja said.

“You can simultaneously utilize our solution within the command center, conference rooms, auditoriums,” Krstulja said. “This interconnectivity and normalizing of signals allows you to be more collaborative and allows you to normalize the experience across the enterprise.”