For better or worse, customers driving control panel trends

Users are demanding simpler interfaces for control panels, but their desire for mass notification systems may be misdirected.


Control panels are an integral part of building systems for many reasons, but the latest trends emphasize certain market concerns. According to a report by Security Systems News , building owners and managers want greater value, meaning that panels should work with all types of building data as well as be capable of remote control. They also want graphic interfaces that are straightforward and easy to use. Most recently, owners and managers have also been demanding that control panels have mass notification systems (MNS) built in, but that may only be a temporary craze, according to some industry leaders.

Spurred somewhat by Sept. 11, and then further by the shootings at Virginia Tech University, clients are asking about MNS capabilities first when discussing fire panels, said Bob Gomersall, a marketing product manager at Honeywell .
David Ringenberger, president of Protection Systems in Dallas, said he's seeing small- and mid-sized jobs demanding MNS, but also said the concept of mass notification may still be a buzzword that clients have latched onto.
Mark Hillenburg, product architect with Digital Monitoring Products Inc. , said that both integrators and end users are making "more and more requests for time- and money-saving features and functionality." This includes making the panel easier to use and understand.
In the past, there's been an "arrogance" inherent in the panel systems, said Ringenberger, and customers struggled to use panels with awkward graphic user interfaces. Now, control panel manufacturers are more cognizant of customer requests, and they are responding by making control panel data accessible to building owners and other facility staff.

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