IP-based KVM technology – short for keyboard, video and mouse – can be used to transform a single screen into a portal for several computers.
At any given time, 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States and air traffic controllers handle 87,671 flights of various types on an average day. With so much air traffic passing through and over the country, control teams must be ready to handle demand and safely guide planes to their destinations.
However, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the U.S. is currently experiencing a 27-year low in the number of fully-certified air traffic controllers, rendering the nation’s flight grid greatly understaffed. If this issue goes unaddressed, airports could experience delays nationwide. In particular, busy hubs like Dallas, Chicago, New York and Atlanta are operating with 25 percent to 45 percent fewer controllers than are needed. Current air traffic controllers are working more hours to make up for the deficit, leading to fatigue in a job that requires total concentration.
The obvious solution would be to hire more air traffic controllers, but this would not solve the problem immediately. It takes two to four years to become a certified controller and many of those who complete training do not make it to certification. Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to meet its hiring goals for five consecutive years.
IP IN THE CONTROL ROOM
All these issues point to a clear need to eliminate some of the pressure on air traffic controllers, while helping them find ways to work more effectively.
For example, in many existing control rooms, each machine has its own keyboard and mouse, which can often represent a challenge to workers, in terms of ergonomics and efficiency. Staff members need to be able to control their equipment remotely, using only a single keyboard, mouse and monitors. Rather than bringing in additional staff, why not change the technology that existing controllers use?
IP-based KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) transforms a single screen into a portal for several computers. These computers can all be in different physical locations and allow for flexible resource allocation – multiple users are able to access a single resource, or one operator to access multiple resources. Through the use of extension technology, USB, audio and video signals can be delivered to the user. Multiple machines can then be controlled by one person or several people in different locations. Controllers are not bound to a specific workstation, offering added flexibility with functionality.
Additionally, if a control room is space constrained, IP-based KVM allows air traffic controllers to move their computers into another room – even to a different floor or building – but still use them via a keyboard, monitor and mouse. This opens up a world of possibilities as control room staff can log into any machine and perform a variety of functions from anywhere, without being bound to specific workstation.
An IP-based KVM may make it possible for fewer staff members to perform the same amount of work by switching between machines using the same monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The advantages of IP-based KVM make it possible for fewer staff members to perform the same amount of work by switching between machines using the same monitor, keyboard and mouse. Additionally, workstations are made more efficient, ergonomic, spacious and comfortable without computers making noise and giving off heat, creating a less stressful work environment for controllers who need to fully concentrate on the tasks at hand.
Considering the time it takes to hire new controllers and the trouble the FAA is facing to grow its staff, streamlining the control room with IP-based KVM may be a considerable option to address the air traffic controller staffing crisis in the U.S. Not only does it allow for fewer controllers to perform the same amount of work, it also provides better working conditions in control rooms where stress can run high and reliability is necessary.
John Halksworth joined Adder as senior product manager in September 2010, where his responsibilities include the expansion of the Adderlink Infinity product range. His 25-year career has been spent in the electronics industry, working in different segments including scientific instrumentation and semiconductor manufacturing equipment.