Tuesday, 21 December 2010

CCTV & changes for control rooms?

We recently spotted two pieces in the press about changes to the way security control rooms might operate.

The first was the new system for enabling members of the public to monitor CCTV images in shops on behalf of the owner and receive a reward for successfully spotting criminal activity.  Perhaps this does reflect the fact that many CCTV cameras are not watched by someone in a control room and only provide a means to record criminal activity in the hope that a prosecution can follow.  There do seem to be some dangers associated with this, as identified in the article, in particular the lack of training of those doing the watching.  But interesting never the less.

The second item was on the use of microphones in support of cameras to detect gunshots on the streets.  We don't know anything about the technology here but have looked at how you might present the information back in the control room and support the operator in getting visual images of the right area and then making good decisions. We await the outcome of the trial with interest.

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Monday, 20 December 2010

Transport chaos and the passenger

As the snow comes down so the UK transport system descends in to chaos. Given the general irregularity of heavy snow perhaps this is understandable.

But, as a group concerned with people, what stands out when watching the news reports is the number of people stuck at airports and train stations saying "we've been given no information".

How can this be so?  It would appear from the ground that so much of the organisations and operators' focus goes into sorting the problem that not enough effort is paid to informing the customers.

In these difficult situations, people need a constant flow of updated information.  Organisations are looking at using more technological solutions like Twitter to support this.  But this never replaces a well informed member of staff who can deal with questions and actually answer them.

I saw a piece last night on the news where trains had been cancelled at Peterborough and there was the usual chaos with uninformed staff, a lack of replacement buses ready to go and a total lack of organisation to help passengers know where and when to get the bus.  This suggests a lack of contingency planning on behalf of the operators to know what they are going to do when faced with difficult circumstances when things go wrong.

Transport is key to our economy.  In a civilised society we should be able to run a transport system that is passenger or user focused.  This means responding effectively to passenger needs for information when things go wrong.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

Is it really "ergonomic"?

The Ergonomists within our team often moan about this issue so we thought it was about time we talked about it on the blog! How has "ergonomic" become a term that is owned by the marketing department? What does it mean if you are seeing a product described as being "ergonomic"?

The usual application seems to mean that something is curvy and therefore roughly shaped to fit your fingers or other part of your body.  This is where the majority of hand-held gadgets such as computer mice, scissors, knives, etc make their claim.  However this claim to fit the body doesn't stack up against the wide variety of anthropometric dimensions we find across the population - it might fit for you but it won't fit most other people.

Being "ergonomic" is about design to match the task being performed and allowing you to do it safely etc.  So some computer mice can make the claim as they help you interact with your computer and they may be carefully designed to minimise the risk of musculo-skeletal injuries but most don't.

One of our non-Ergonomics staff raised the question having been advised that pencil grips can be good in aiding writing skill development for children. 

A quick Google search flags that these are usually sold as "ergonomically correct" products.  To use they are not really ergonomic because the designer thinks they will fit the hand perfectly but because the thicker grip suits a child's hand and dexterity better and enables them to perform the task of writing better.

What do you think about "ergonomic" products?