DistribuTech 2020: A Review of Control Room Consoles

Posted by Ken Carson on Feb 5, 2020 4:21:35 PM



DistribuTech is the largest power grid technology conference in the U.S.

Transformation is the name of the game in the electric power industry, and that fueled the energy, so to speak, at DistribuTech 2020 last week in San Antonio.

New solutions and a flood of blow-your-mind innovations in AI (artificial intelligence) are powering the heightened needs in the utilities industry. But one thing is clear: it is and always will be the people who are making it happen. They are the gatekeepers who keep us safe and keep the machine running in the command and control centers of today.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I received a text notification from my utility provider that the power was out in my neighborhood and would be back on in one hour. This minute-to-minute monitoring typically occurs in the NOC (network operations center), and this is the part of the process I love.  

Here’s what I saw at DistribuTech 2020, viewed through this human-centric lens. With a focus on the safety, comfort and productivity of the control room operators on the front lines making it all happen, I walked the DistribuTech 2020 exhibit floor to see what’s new and what trends are emerging in the world of operator-centric console furniture. (Spoiler alert: grey is a popular color for control rooms.)

  1. Evans–Based out of Calgary, CAN, Evans teamed up with digital display manufacturer Planar, exhibiting a large, linear control room console with a grey surface from their Response Nextgen line. The console includes an LED lighting system running across the top and bottom edges with a range of light colors that the control room operator can control with push buttons. Pretty cool.  
  1. TBC–TBC Consoles out of Edgewood, NY had its own booth, supporting a video wall and one height-adjustable command and control console. The workstation had a single surface, with several control room monitors mounted on monitor arms. The console color theme was grey with dark grey panel surround and a light grey work surface. 
  1. Winsted–Minneapolis-based exhibited a smaller Prestige Sight-Line command center console in the AVI/SPL booth, along with a portable Barco video wall. The workstation was not height-adjustable, and there were no mounted computers nor control room monitors on the console.
  1. XybixThen there’s us, Xybix of Littleton, CO. We had our own booth and displayed our dual-surface, operator-centric console with monitors stacked in a 2-over-2 configuration. The color scheme was a dark grey wood-look surface. Our communication and control console was height-adjustable for operators’ sit-to-stand work.   

This is a quick summary of the control room consoles I saw at Distributech 2020. I will add that a trend I’ve seen growing over the past four years is a greater appreciation for, and demand for, sit-to-stand workstations for control room operators. If you’re thinking about updating your control room, I would start with a sit-to-stand console. In the initial budgeting stage for your control room? Check out our control room budgeting blog for more.


Topics: Ergonomics, Features, Command Centers, Pre-Planning, Brief Overview, Xybix vs. Competitors