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New Technology makes Efforts easier in the Control Room

  •  11-12-2010, 4:25 PM

    New Technology makes Efforts easier in the Control Room

    Allow me to apologize first of all, for my tendency to elaborate in excess.  I know your time is valuable, and that quick snippets is often the preferred format for entering into these discussions.  However, if your time is short, I recommend that you print out my extended posts (if the topic is of interest to you), and review them at a time that is more convenient.

    What if you could use your mouse pointer to move from one computer's monitor to the monitor of another computer, and back, while simultaneously giving you keyboard control to each computer the mouse pointer crosses.  Synergy and several other software packages do this, but not without some problems.  Synergy is a little clunky to configure so that the host computer (with keyboard and mouse) knows how to communicate with the other computers.  Synergy (et al) also uses your network to communicate mouse position to the host from each of the connected computers; if your network is slow, chances are your mouse pointer will jump a bit (very frustrating).  Some people use a standard KVM as a backup to Synergy so that each computer will sense a keyboard connected at startup, since computer control is not complete until the OS has fully loaded. (Synergy works with Windows, MacOS, and Linux).

    Here is the good news: Adder now sells a hardware-based switch that does not rely on the network, and will work even if one or more computers shut down.  You can use a button on the switch while your computers don't have mouse control (such as bootup and BIOS processes).  Check out Adder's Command & Control switch, that uses one USB keyboard and mouse, and can even switch USB peripherals from its two on-board USB ports.  A printer or USB drive can be connected to the switch and will be available to each of the computers simply by moving your mouse pointer to that computer.  You can download a free utility that will allow you to design the layout of your various monitor positions.  If you have a monitor mount that mounts up to four monitors corner to corner, you can define that.  The next version of their Free-Flow software is due out early 2011, which will allow you to define multiple monitors for each computer.  In the mean time, simply configure your monitors in the OS to be below or above the primary monitor.  The switch ignores the remaining monitors (like the patient monitors).

    Practical application of this technology: a SimMan, SimBaby (et al) control computer user can connect up to four laptops and/or desktops (with monitors) to one keyboard and mouse.  This would allow one operator to seamlessly take control of four computers in any arrangement (stacked monitors, or side to side) during multi-patient scenarios, or two scenarios (with another person watching at least one video capture besides the operator) so key events are not missed.  A well programmed scenario should allow you to have less reliance on manual adjustments of vitals so you can focus on the video feeds.

    The RUB: The Adder Command & Control four port USB KM switch lists for $495, but can be purchased for about $421 online, or if you are purchasing more than one, as little as $380 per unit (we purchased 6 for our new control room). 

    How we are using them: We are using them for our Laerdal and Gaumard control stations.  The Noelle requires as many as four computers to control the mother, baby, patient monitors, and video system, so it simply was not practical to have a keyboard and mouse for each computer, or to use a traditional KVM switch; our faculty are brilliant and talented, but manual computer switching in the heat of the moment, can be frustrating for our faculty.  While we do utilize a simtech (me) to operate the client computer as well as our clinical lab manager, we want to encourage all of our faculty to operate these systems.  When I program their scenarios, I work hard to make it event-based as much as possible, so they can concentrate on the activity of their students and simply "check-off" key events.  Gaumard's interface isn't quite as friendly to program off of an event list, but I'm trying to get better at simplifying the interaction between the client interface and the operator; I'm confident I'll refine the process.

    To learn more about the Command & Control switch, visit: http://www.adder.us/products/ccs4usb-command-and-control.aspx?sid=.  If you have trouble finding the better price points, contact me.  I will be happy to share some resources with you.  The same goes for any questions you might have about this technology or related control room components.  Mighter, a competitor to Adder, has also created a similar switch, but, believe it or not, it is far more expensive, listing for about $700.  They are only now coming to the end of their beta test of their product.  I don't like promoting one brand over another, but since this is a very unique technology (whether Adder or Mighter), you would be hard-pressed to find this particular technology through Google.  It took me many hours of refining my search, because I liked the features that Synergy had, but didn't like some of the issues I stated previously.  So I was searching for keywords of those features and finally located the Adder solution, and shortly thereafter, the Mighter solution.  There are more features available on these switches, but for "brevity's sake" I will leave some room for discovery on your part.  It is a really cool technology.

    If you would like to follow other posts related to simulation technology peripherals and support systems, I post regularly on this site, as well as SSiH.org and EMS-Works.com's new blog resource.  The latter site has asked me to do a series of vendor-independent discussions on AV technology and the decision process involved in finding the best solution for your setting. 

    If you wish to discuss this topic further outside of this forum, please write me at hyoung@tarleton.edu.


    H. Michael Young
    CIELO Operations Manager
    University of the Incarnate Word
    Center for Interprofessional Experiential Learning & Observation.
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