Forms of Control Panels initially began to emerge along side the growth in computing, particularly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Although the forebears to the modern systems, these did not perform with the sophistication of those which are now widely used. Initially, such systems were just for an elite tier of technological organisations and bodies, such as at the Kennedy Space centre, as well as serving a variety of military purposes.
The Proliferation of Control Panel Use
It is no longer the case that only a select handful of organisations have access to the use of these now essential pieces of technology. Companies of all sizes and spanning a rich variety of different industries and sectors are now dependent on the use of control panels in their operation. Whilst analogue dials, switches and then digital figure displays were once the point of interaction and communication between panels and their users, we now use more user friendly interfaces with bespoke software being displayed on touch screen technology for modern control panel users. This is of course, largely because the panels themselves have grown more sophisticated and a responsive programme is needed to best allow more complex instructions to be given to panels, and more detailed information to be received.
Increased Computing Power
Whilst the average handheld device is now hundreds of thousands of times of powerful than the computers which accompanied the initial Apollo missions, so control panel use for industry has reflected the immense improvement in the amount of pieces of information and instructions which can be processed within a second. This increase in processing speed can largely be attributed to the increased capacity to contain a far greater number of transistors into a designated area. This increase of transistors within systems has been allowed by the shrinking of their size, down to around a staggering 90-100 atoms a transistor, an unthinkable development when the technology began to be developed.
As a consequence, complex industrial and technological processes can now be monitored and controlled, with use across agriculture, food, manufacturing, chemical technologies, waste processing and water management. As well as increasing their computing power, a major development we expect to see in the future of control panels is reducing the amount of wiring required to connect systems and their components. The gradual evolution of communication systems such as ‘bus’ technology (from the Latin omnibus) has allowed for a reduction in the need for point to point wiring, offering a quicker way to connect components of a system. It is expected that we’ll continue to see an extension of this pattern of ‘streamlining’ wiring within control panel systems and their components as well as increasing energy efficiency of systems.
The User Friendly Future
The way control panels interact with the people who use them is also an element of their development which is constantly changing. We design bespoke software for clients, tailored to the function of the panel. Whilst the technology of control panels will continue to become more complex and better performing, the only thing to restrict the effectiveness of control panel systems for industry will be the way they are operated and understood by their users. Creating software that’s easy to use and responsive to the tasks and performance of a system is at the heart of the continued development of these technologies.