Watson Consoles Blog

Jun 14, 2017 Future-Proof, Before You Buy

Small-format PCs can mean big savings for PSAPs: Space, Time, Money

Small format PCs can mean big savings

Technology drives efficiency within the PSAP. In addition to making sure your center has the most current systems capability, it's important to consider how the hardware impacts your space. By now it’s a familiar refrain: as technology gets better, technology gets smaller. For PSAP centers, this is a good news/bad news scenario.

The good news

There is no downside to micro PCs. Absolutely none. They have all the power you need packed into a smaller footprint. They generate less heat and are quieter than full-size PC towers. Plus, their reduced footprint can free up space in the console for other equipment and even … the holy grail … personal space.

Personal storage can sometimes be a contentious subject in centers trying to maximize space for active dispatch andCenter with small tech storage and room for personal and shared resources call-taker positions. If you have the right console furniture, the space you reclaim from large format PC’s can be converted to personal storage without impacting the overall position footprint.   

If personal storage is not a need for your team, reducing your PC size and/or relocating them to alternate positions within the consoles may allow you to remove modular tech cabinetry. You can then reconfigure the floorplan to add a position, or insert a work tools area or meeting space.

The bad news...Or as we see it,
more good news

To realize the greatest gain of usable work zones by converting from full sized to micro PCs, you should be equipped with modular consoles. The appropriation of space does not work if your furniture is a uni-body construction, with technology cabinets built in to the undercarriage or frame of the console.

We know, however, it is unusual to have funding for both technology and furniture at the same time. When making the most of your funding, consider how one impacts the other. If you purchase with a forward-looking perspective, in a few short years you can transform the space and utility of your center:

  • More expansive workspaces
  • Ample traffic and pass-throughs
  • Expanded sight lines
  • Personal and shared storage
  • Reduced IT installation and maintenance materials and labor costs

Understanding the Impact

Before we jump into the best-case technology and furniture combination, let’s better understand why micro PCs are becoming the preferred data device for PSAP technology.     

What are Micro PCs?

computer-case-sizes.jpg

Micro PCs, sometimes called small-format, small from factor, or atom PCs, are enterprise-level solutions fully capable of running the software found in today’s PSAPs. The only thing that’s different is their size. The dimensions of a typical micro PC are around 6 in. x 8 in. x 2 in. They still include the LAN, USB, and monitor connections found in a tower. They are simply compressed into a smaller container.  

Small is better; but why?

Emerging technology and individualized workflow impact the use of space at each console workstation. This echos one of the workflow struggles dispatchers share with us. They are challenges to maintain an open work area when equipment and tools (and personal items) demand so much space. 

too much stuff on my dispatch console

A better use of cabinet storage and worksurface real estate can be attained by minimizing the footprint of equipment and tools when the option is available. The impact of software systems evolution may also drive the need for increased hardware storage.

Two software trends worth considering: 1) PSAPs are acquiring more independent systems, or conversely, 2) PSAPs are converting to multi-system software packages. Both trends impact the number of PCs and monitors you will likely see in the future - the monitors number is trending up. As a result, your need for hardware to drive these applications may increase. Additionally, as new ancillary support equipment comes on-line and/or evolves you'll be looking for extra space at each console to accommodate it. 

How does the furniture factor in? 

Consoles are conventionally designed to house PCs in a technology cabinet. The technology cabinet may be built in to the base console or might be in an adjoining cabinet. If you max out your technology storage with full-sized towers, you miss an opportunity to dedicate that space for ancillary equipment that might otherwise sit on the worksurface.

As far as your data-drivers go, your consoles should be flexible enough to house towers, rack-mounts, or a combination of both. In many cases, the size of your surface determines the capacity of your technology storage. Conventional designs with built-in technology compartments may contribute to wasted space.

A better choice is a modular design where your technology need determines the size of your tech cabinets. This is a gain for centers who aim to invest in a console asset and need flexibility for changing tech and space later. Less tech? Simply downsize or eliminate the cabinet while retaining the main console body.

console modular-1.jpg

Above: This modular console has base and stack storage available in a variety of sizes to best meet your technology storage needs.

Maximize the value with a flexible monitor mount solution

You may be surprised to learn that your micro PCs can find a home alongside your monitors. A monitor mount solution that can also handle PC stowage reduces workspace footprint and simplifies power and video cabling by keeping it local to the array zone. 

As you build your plan to reduce PC size and get them out of cabinets and off the surface, consider how your monitor mount system may impact your flexibility. There are multiple ways to mount monitors on your dispatch console. We reviewed the pros and cons of these options in our Tech Trends:Future Proofing the 21st Century PSAP with Multi-Monitor Arrays. In addition to the mounting position, you should consider the mount type.

 

A flexible standard is the VESA mount. This is standard for most flat-panel monitors. If you choose a freestanding array

VESA mount.jpg bar with VESA mount capability, you can do something revolutionary! Using custom hardware, you can take the micro PCs out of the technology cabinet and mount them directly to the back of the monitor.  This is a space-savings win!

More than just a space saver, though, mounting the PC on the VESA bracket means the video cable can be reduced to the shortest available size (typically three feet). That reduces costs and simplifies cable management. And, if the cable ever fails, it’s far simpler to replace this short-run cable than to thread 15 to 20 feet of video cable through the console and to the technology cabinet. You also reduce the risk of electrostatic interference, something we shared in Simplify Your Data Management Solution and get Better Performance.

Plan with furniture in mind

Furniture makers have responded to changing technology in many ways. At Watson, we have play console.jpgadvanced a modular design that allows customers to customize their consoles and to add or subtract components as their needs change. This modular approach, combined with our focus on using space efficiently, pairs perfectly with the new trend toward increased technological support tools powered by micro PCs.

If you are looking to purchase new consoles, choose a furniture solution that can integrate small PCs, even if you do not have any micros today. Furniture lasts a long time, and you don’t want to end up with consoles that can’t take full advantage of the benefits these powerful space savers can provide.Whether it is a rack-mounted or a VESA-mounted solution, micro PCs give PSAPs the ability to reduce the size of their technology footprint and, in some cases, even reduce the size of their console footprint altogether.

Be your own advocate

Trends indicate that micro PCs provide an advantage for PSAPs. As more PSAPs integrate the technology, IT and facility teams will realize the cost and labor efficiencies. Today, most software system vendors specify the type of PCs you will need.Instead of accepting an out-of-the-box solution, ask for options. Think holistically about your technology and furniture integration. Don’t just think about processing power; think about its enclosure. You can challenge your vendors to help you attain a high-performance center. Converting to small-format might just save you more space, and dollars, than you thought possible.

Small-format PCs: Things to consider before you buy

  1. Ask your Software vendors to recommend or provide micro PCs for their next intallation.
    Let them know you are trying to save space and ask how they can help.
  2. Can you use more space and is it attainable by sizing down technology?
    Do your users have enough personal storage?
    Would your team benefit from a dedicated zone for shared tools? 
  3. Ask your Console vendors to provide a plan for technology space savings.
    Be sure to include the equipment you have now and your desired future state.
    Choose a modular console design for long-term value.
    Consider VESA-compatible monitor array
.   
  4. Do you plan to rack-mount within a cabinet or VESA-mount on the array bar?
    What will your current console accommodate?
    What will the future bring?                                      

 

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