A control room or operations centre is at the very heart of network operations. Functions to be performed there include monitoring traffic and traffic-related environmental conditions, incident detection, centralised data processing, support of the duty operators’ decision-making processes, communication with relevant agencies and service media, and – essentially – the implementation and evaluation of operations strategies. (See Traffic Control Centres)
Duty operators’ responsibilities are diverse and including monitoring of traffic and environmental information, decision making on the severity of incidents, selecting and prioritising operational functions and liaison with coordination groups. These processes need to be done with a short response time. This means that system integration in the control room or network operations centre is an important element in order to support decision-making processes. (See Systems Engineering)
Traffic monitoring and other field data are delivered to the operations centre and processed together with other operational data using in-house computers programmed to produce operations functions. Information presented on the video wall and display units helps the control room operators assess severity of incidents and select and/or prioritise operations functions. (See ITS and Network Monitoring)
Operations functions implemented in the field are then monitored and evaluated, perhaps resulting in further actions. (See Planning and Reporting)
In order to support these functions the operations centre needs to house computer hardware and software corresponding to these functions. The major functions of the computer system are to receive and transmit data to/from the field, to process data regarding traffic flow and incident characteristics, to receive operator’s commands, to control graphic displays and to store and create historical data. In particular, software algorithms play significant roles in detecting incidents and identifying severity of incidents, supporting operations decision-making, and selecting and/or prioritising traffic operations/control strategies. (See Data and Information)
The function of the telecommunications system is to connect the operations centre with devices in the field. The major information to be transferred is monitored data from the field, operational commands from the centre and the mechanical status information of field devices.
The cost of telecommunications system can be significant so the telecommunications system should be properly selected, taking the following into account:
The transmission of video information generally requires greater bandwidth. Use of standardised common data formats and telecommunications protocols reduce telecommunications system costs, facilitate liaison between agencies and also facilitate the future expansion of monitoring system.
Communication media currently employed in monitoring include wire-type communications such as fibre optic and coaxial cable; and wireless communications including mobile/cellular phone, radio and microwave. The wire-type communication has advantage in economies of scale in transferring large volumes of information. On the other hand, wireless communication is generally more economical when handling few field devices. (See Telecommunications)