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Expanding Your Console Space with Flat Displays

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by Michael David, Wright Line LLC

Originally published in our Jan/Feb 2004 issue.

Communication centers that are standardized on or migrating to computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records management systems for emergency services are becoming more familiar with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat panel technology as a preferred monitor platform.  Beyond the “cool” factor of these slim displays there are many functional and ergonomic benefits associated with LCD panels in the construction of user consoles and furniture that justify the expense of this monitor technology.  LCD’s have become a leading design tool in creating and defining “state-of-the-art” communication centers.

Ultimately when planning a communication center, the technology drives the console solution.  Your workstation should be designed around the functionality of the technology being employed today, while providing the flexibility to manage tomorrow’s innovations.  And, more importantly, any communication center console design must provide a safe, comfortable and ergonomically correct environment for dispatchers and telecommunicators.

The flat panel LCD, not the conventional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), offers the most appropriate combination of functionality and cost effectiveness vital to the design of today’s communication console.  Only recently have dispatchers, telecommunicators and their supervisors begun to realize the obvious functional advantages of LCD flat panel monitors as an important factor in the design of a true wrap-around workstation.  The features include: a compact, lightweight design that consumes one-third the desktop space of a CRT, distortion free viewing areas, and VESA® (Video Electronics Standards Association) FDMI (Flat Display Mounting Interface Standard) mounting standards that allow LCD’s to be attached to adjustable, ergonomic arms.

A typical 17-inch flat panel weighs between 10 – 12 lbs, so it is a natural evolution to get them off the desktop completely.  FPDs from today’s leading manufacturers – Philips, Samsung, Sharp, NEC and Panasonic – feature the industry recognized mounting pattern known as the VESA FDMI.  The VESA FDMI standard is simply the definition of a mounting interface that utilizes either a 75 x 75 mm or 100 x 100 mm hole pattern that permits a variety of mounting options.

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Traditionally, CRTs were limited to oversized work surfaces and cabinet designs that consumed a larger footprint and were typically restricted to a linear run.  The VESA mounting option for LCDs clears the desktop by physically mounting flat screens above the work surface improving workspace, minimizing clutter and affording a variety of design options in the communication center.  In addition, enhanced mounting options permit tiered or stacked LCD configurations, which also save additional space by consolidating monitor placement above the work surface.  The key is that this innovative monitor technology can dramatically reduce the physical layout of the communications center.

Parabolic or cockpit viewing of monitoring equipment afforded by LCD’s instantly provides a more comfortable and ergonomically advanced work environment.  The workstation has literally been built around the technology and the user.  Situated in a wrap-around environment the workstation goes beyond being ergonomically accommodating; it offers users more space and the opportunity to adjust and adapt monitor placement and viewing angles.  Additionally, it helps accommodate to the physical characteristics of the dispatcher or telecommunicator on duty.

The real news is that choosing to go with the LCD in the design phase could ultimately result in building a smaller and smarter workstation.  Consider this, CRT monitors require a desktop space in excess of 36” deep to accommodate their footprint while also allowing for some useable space.  With the smaller footprint of the flat panel, the console design could be decreased by as much as 20 – 25%.  The outcome: the entire communication center is more efficient, again allowing for greater design flexibility.

Let’s review the benefits the LCD poses to the communication center:

*     Better console design

*     Elimination of technology crowding on the desktop

*     Improved technology management and ease of access – equipment at a fingertip’s touch

*     Reduced costs over time

*     Increased functionality and a safe, ergonomically correct working environment around

*     Diminished eyestrain for dispatchers/telecommunicators 

*     Parabolic viewing configurations

*     Improved ergonomics

*     Countless mounting options

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It is also worth noting that the flat panel display is closing the gap on the once popular CRTs in the area of cost as well.  A 17-inch flat-panel monitor that cost from $900-$1,000 in 2001 has dropped to under $300 today, and sales of LCDs continue to climb.  The cost of ownership of the LCD is also dramatically less than the CRT when you consider that it uses one-third less electricity than the CRT and emits less heat.  Additionally, the flat panel offers a longer lifespan than traditional monitors.

Traditional CRT’s limit choices and, therefore, pose considerable design challenges for the communication center.  Tossing the old rules aside and considering the flat panel early in the design phase opens up a host of design options. Communication center design should accommodate the specific technology, but never loose site of its users. We should continue to move toward enhanced ergonomic standards in the design of consoles and workstations created for 9-1-1 and emergency communications facilities.

Michael David is Director of Product Marketing for Wright Line LLC, located in Worcester (MA).  Mr. David has an extensive background in console and workstation design with more than 15 years in the industry. Wright Line has been a global leader in the design and manufacture of consoles, enclosures, office and other specialty furniture for over 70 years. Their innovative designs include a line of adjustable worksurfaces to meet strict ANSI ergonomic standards and the rigorous demands of today’s 9-1-1 dispatch and communication centers.  Please visit Wright Line online at


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