Designing and deploying meaningful auditory alarms for control systems

B. Sousa, A. Donati, Elif Ozcan Vieira, Rene van Egmond, Reinier Jansen, J Edworthy, R. Peldszus, Y. Voumard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific

4 Citations (Scopus)


In the old days, spacecraft alarming notifications to operators were directed, upon arrival to ground, to one of those needle printers. Trained operators could tell, from the length and rhythm of the printer noise, what kind of alarm it was and therefore infer the criticality or the subject. Today, in monitoring and control systems (MCS) currently in use at the European Space Agency (ESA), there is no care to convey information in the sounds, and these alarm sounds have not been systematically designed to indicate the type of system failure and further elicit the desired and accurate operator response. Operators depend heavily on the graphical interfaces in order to pinpoint the source of alarm sounds (see Fig. 1) which further creates cognitive load. Similarly, switching cost from auditory perception to visual perception while finding the source of the information is undesirable when time can be a precious commodity for operators when monitoring valuable spacecraft. Therefore, ESA teamed up with Delft University of Technology and Plymouth University in order to investigate and design a new auditory display for the control rooms located in the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpace Operations
Subtitle of host publicationContributions from the Global Community
EditorsC. Cruzen, M. Schmidhuber, Y. Lee, B. Kim
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-51941-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-51940-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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