The present invention refers to a user interface for a control station
of a security system, in particular a danger management system, the interface comprising
a display screen for the indication of an alarm situation in the system and means
for the treatment of the indicated alarm situations by an operator.
Known danger management systems present in their user interface schema
en element that represents the alarm situation in the system in summary form. The
most common realization of this element is a group of "lamps" of different colors,
one per alarm category. Many interfaces display also a counter which informs of
the number of alarms present in the respective category. It is also known to present
a list of pending alarms in order to allow the operator to select the alarm to be
treated. Such lists however do not allow efficiently checking the degree of completion
of the alarm treatment.
MS-Windows based operating systems allow the quasi-parallel completion
of several tasks in different windows. But as the arrangement of the windows and
their operation are completely in the user's hands, it cannot be excluded that windows
may overlap and hide each other on the screen. This is also the case in several
danger management systems where event lists are available but may be hidden by windows
related to other activities and/or by a large window opened by the operator for
treatment of an event.
The invention is now intended to provide a user interface which enables
efficient and secure alarm treatment, in particular correct interpretation of the
displayed information and execution of the adequate responses. In particular, the
invention should provide an approach to multiple alarm handling and should make
certain that security relevant information displayed on the screen cannot be hidden
by other windows.
This object is achieved by a user interface of the type mentioned
at the beginning, characterized in that the display screen is segmented into three
areas, a first area which represents the summary of the events in the system, a
second area representing an event list comprising information about the displayed
in events in a symbolic form, and a third area which can be used for any application
useful for the operation of the control station, whereby the first and the second
area cannot be covered by other windows.
A first preferred embodiment of the user interface according to the
invention is characterized in that the displayscreen is dynamically segmented such
that a permanent overview over events is preserved even when a detailed view of
a single event is active.
The user interface according to the invention has the advantage that
the summary of the events in the system and the event list are always brought to
the operator's attention and cannot be hidden by other windows.
A second preferred embodiment of the user interface is characterized
in that the first area has the form of a column or row and is provided at a first
edge of the display screen, in that the second area has the form of a column or
row and is provided perpendicular to the first area at a second edge of the display
screen, and in that the third area covers the remaining surface of the display screen.
Preferably, the first area is provided at the upper edge and the second area is
provided at the left edge of the display screen.
A third preferred embodiment of the user interface according to the
invention is characterized in that the second area comprises a number of display
fields which are hereinafter called event tags and comprise an icon that represents
the cause of the alarm and furnish the operator with information about the urgency
of the action to be taken. Each event tag represents one type of alarm.
A fourth preferred embodiment of the use interface is characterized
in that by the clicking of an event tag the third area is covered by a semi-transparent
A fifth preferred embodiment odf the user interface is characterized
in that by clicking of an event tag the respective event tag is expanded to an event
object in the form of a row which provides a larger screen extension and allows
to display a detailed description of the respective alarm in detailed form.
Further advantageous and preferred embodiments and developments of
the invention are specified in claims 9 to 14.
The invention is described in greater detail below using an exemplary
embodiment and the drawings; in the drawings:
- Fig. 1 shows a flow chart of the work sequence of an operator of the control
station of a danger management system; and
- Fig. 2 shows a diagrammatic view of the display of a user interface according
to the invention.
The control station of a security system, for example a fire detection,
a gas detection or an intrusion detection system and also of a danger management
system which is placed over the said systems offers a user interface supporting
the user, commonly an operator, in managing the system. The description of the user
interface in connection with the control station of a danger management system,
which control station is hereinafter referred to as danger management station, should
not mean any limitation of the user interface to danger management stations. It
is herewith expressly pointed out that the user interface shown in Figure 2 can
be used for the control station of any suitable security system.
The most important function of a danger management station is the
alarm management, whereby alarms represent conditions the operator must be alerted
of and should react on. Alarms are the result of abnormal events which are typically
detected automatically by event detectors of the fire and security subsystems connected
to the danger management station, and range from various kinds of anomalies and
faults to severe alarms related to life-safety threats or attacks to property. In
the following description both terms alarm and event are used. Other typical functions
of a danger management station are the supervision and control of connected subsystems,
visual supervision via CCTV systems, visitor's management and others.
The flow chart of Fig. 1 shows the work sequence of an operator of
a danger management system. The operator of a danger management station is engaged
in alarm management for a fraction of his time only. Alarms happen asynchronously
with the other activities of the operator, but, depending on their type, may have
priority over all those activities. Efficient and secure alarm treatment is essential
for the prevention of severe consequences. It requires the correct interpretation
of the information available and the execution of adequate actions, as for example
acknowledging and quitting alarms or calling the police or the fire brigade.
The cycle of an alarm is as follows:
- The alarm is generated and as long as not selected for treatment by an operator,
it is set in "unprocessed" status, requiring action by the operator.
- When selected by the operator, the alarm is in "in-process" status and requires
no action by any other operator that the one who has selected it.
- The operator can completely terminate all operations required and can then close
the alarm or he can interrupt treatment of an alarm in some cases.
Normally the operator is engaged in the loop of activities 1 to 3.
During execution of any other activity (step 1), he/she shall continuously monitor
the system and assess the alarm situation in order to decide whether he/she has
to react or not. When the operator becomes aware that one or more alarms require
an action (step 2), he decides whether the new alarm(s) have priority on her/his
current activity (step 3). When the decision is NO, the operator returns to her/his
stand by status (step 1).
When the decision is YES, the operator has to select which of the
pending alarms is the most important one and needs an urgent action (step 4). After
this selection, the operator enters in the alarm treatment phase (step 5) in which
he performs a number of specific actions. During the alarm treatment phase however
he shall continuously monitor the overall situation of the system. When he becomes
aware of a new aiarm (step 6), he/she has to decide whether this new alarm has priority
over the alarm he/she (step 7) is currently treating. When the decision is NO, the
operator returns to the treatment of the previous alarm (step 8). When the decision
is YES, the operator performs treatment of the most important new alarm (step 9).
The operator has three possible ways to terminate the treatment of
- All necessary actions have been executed and the alarm is closed (step 10).
The operator returns to step 1.
- The operator cannot further proceed in the alarm treatment due to external conditions.
In this case the operator has to suspend treatment of the respective alarm (step
11) and waits for the necessary external actions (that is e.g. the case when a subsystem
has detected a fault, after calling for the intervention of a maintenance team the
operator can do nothing but wait for the maintenance team to repair the fault).
- An alarm with higher priority requires treatment. The operator suspends treatment
of the current alarm and selects the new one (step 9).
The description of Fig. 1 should have made evident that the user interface
of the danger management station should provide means to guarantee that the operator
can get awareness of an incoming alarm, independently of other actions he might
be performing, and that he/she will not loose her/his awareness of other possibly
more severe alarms when he/she is treating an alarm. It is also necessary to provide
efficient means to evaluate the importance of the actions required, so that the
decisions in steps 3 and 7 can be made in a secure and reliable way.
Fig. 2 shows a diagrammatic view of the display 12 of the user interface
of a danger management station. The display 12 is divided into three marked off
areas, a first area 13, the so-called global scheme, a second area 14, the so-called
event bar, and a third area 15, the so-called work area. The global schema 13 which
is arranged at the top of the display and has the form of a horizontal strip contains
a number of display fields 16 of the "lamp" type representing the summary of all
alarms that are present in the system. The alarms are grouped by various criteria
among which the most common is the severity of the alarm. There are different severity
degrees each of them associated to a different color. Every display field 16 shows
also the number of the respective alarms. For instance the display field 16 on the
left end of the global schema is provided for severe alarms, the next display field
16 is provided for alarms, the next is provided for exclusions. Other display fields
are provided for faults, anomalies, etc. The global scheme 13 is permanent and cannot
be covered by other areas or windows.
The event bar 14 which is arranged on the left side of the display
12 and has the form of a column comprises a number of display fields in the form
of event tags 17. The event tags 17 display the most important information about
the alarms in a symbolic form; they are formed by a square comprising an icon that
represents the cause of the alarm and they have a simple visual code that immediately
furnish the operator with information about the urgency of the actions to be taken.
Each event tag 17 represents one type of alarm (e.g. fire, intrusion, gas, etc.)
and displays all important features which are necessary to make the initial decisions
in steps 3 and 7 of Fig. 1. The event bar 14 is coordinate with the global scheme
13 and provides the operator with an additional level of information. Alarms are
not also distinguished according to types but also according to categories in order
to have a first indication of their severity. Typical categories are "severe alarm",
"fault" and "exclusion".
Each alarm category has assigned a specific color which is constant
in the system. The square of an alarm tag 17 in full color and blinking indicates
that an alarm of the type indicated by the icon and of the category indicated by
the color is present and is in an un-processed state. The square in pale color and
lightening steady indicates that the respective alarm is currently under treatment
by another operator, so that no further action of the operator concerned is required.
The square in grey indicates that the alarm has been already seen and is suspended.
Each square comprises in one of its corners a triangle 18 to indicate the category
of a suspended alarm. The triangle in full color indicates the category and a blinking
triangle indicates that the alarm requires action, otherwise the triangle is in
a steady state. In summary, a blinking object (square or triangle) indicates that
an action is necessary, an object in a steady state indicates that no action is
necessary. A larger blinking object (square) indicates a more urgent necessary action
than a smaller blinking object (triangle). The event bar 14 is a permanent column
and cannot be covered by other areas or windows. If the length of the alarm list
on the event bar 14 exceeds the display 12, scrolling can be invoked.
When the operator selects an alarm by clicking the respective event
tag 17, any contents of the work area 15 is covered with a semi-transparent screen
and the selected event tag 17 moves a short distance to the right and expands to
an event object 19 in the form of a row. The event object provides a larger screen
extension and allows to display a detailed description of the alarm in an explicit
(verbal) form. The expanded event object 19 contains in verbal form all the information
needed by the operator to make his complete selection choice: the cause of the event
and its source, date and time of its occurrence, some operating instructions in
short form, the action the operator has to perform and the commands to perform the
most urgent actions (e.g. silencing the alarm sirens).
The covering of the contents of the work area 15 with a semi-transparent
screen in the moment when an event tag 17 is clicked has the advantage that the
operator has the comfort of persistence of his/her previous screen while his/her
attention is attracted at the same time to the highlighted expanded event object.
The expanded event object confirms the operator of the selection he has made while
keeping and highlighting the relationship of this event with the others present
in the event bar 14.
When the operator needs to assess the complete alarm condition of
the danger management system globally and more extensively, he can expand the event
bar 14 to a full featured alarm list by selecting a command 20 located top left
near to the event tags. 17. The selection of command 20 will produce expansion of
all event tags 17 from left to right up to the coverage of the full work area 15
and will provide the display of all expanded event objects. In this configuration
the operator has a complete overview of the alarm condition in the danger management
system and is in the best position to make the selection decision.
When the operator wants to go back to his previous activities, he
has to select command 20 which selection will force the expanded alarm list to roll
back from right to left, discovering the work area 15 which will display its previous
contents. In order to select the event treatment for the selected event, it is sufficient
to double click the chosen event tag 17. This double click corresponds to the transition
from step 4 to step 5 in Figure 2.
The described means and measures maintain the operator's awareness
and allow easy event selection even when the operator is engaged in the loop between
steps 5 and 7 in Figure 2.