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NEWS Last modified on October 9, 2015

BLOG: Does IP represent the future of the air traffic control room?

The aviation industry has had many ‘ups and downs’, so to speak. But there has been one constant, it is the industry that continues to grow, writes Adder Technology's John Halksworth.

Every year that passes sees demand for more flights, more seats, more runways, and even more airports.

Indeed, July 2015, has been the busiest month of all, with record numbers of passengers getting away for summer holidays all over the world.

All of these flights put an incredible strain on airport controllers, who often spend weeks preparing for busy periods, and making sure all flights manage to leave without delays.

Over 2.2 million flights were recorded in the UK last year, with London particularly busy. Over 3,500 flights take-off and land every single day in the capital from just six runways.
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IP technology can revolutionise the air traffic control room

All of these trends indicate that we need to look at ways to ease the pressure on air traffic controllers, and help them to 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 keyboard, mouse and monitors.

The answer to these challenges is to look for a flexible and reliable IP-based KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) solution.

IP-based high performance KVM brings added functionality, scalability and mission critical reliability.
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Essentially, IP-based KVM transforms a single screen into a portal for several computers – none of which need to be in the same physical location as the screen and input device, but which operate and switch instantly.

IP-based KVM allows air traffic controllers to move their computers into another room, be it on 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 work station.

A flexible, scalable and reliable infrastructure

As well as becoming more flexible, the control room becomes more spacious.

Without computers in the room, less heat and noise is produced, less air conditioning needed, and staffing requirements also change.

Fewer staff members can perform the same amount of work by switching between machines using the same keyboard, monitor and mouse.

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.
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Scalability is also relatively simple. All that is needed is the addition of end points to the system.

This differs a lot from bespoke technology, whereby the cost of increasing the system by just one end point is significant, and requires additional equipment (often made to order with long lead times) that has to be installed by engineers with specific knowledge of the proprietary technology.

Reliability is a key criteria in this environment, which is why this IP-based high-performance KVM solution includes redundant functionality, as the central server manager can operate side-by-side with primary and backup options.

The central switch is also readily available, resulting in fast lead times and ease of availability.

There is also the option to dual cable, meaning that the route by which the data travels has a fail-safe. A redundant power solution also adds an additional level of protection to your IT infrastructure. 

• John Halksworth is Adder Technology's senior product manager.

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