Abstract

The TRANSWAY® software application is an adaptive, ontology-based toolset with collaborative agents, designed to assist the Deployment and Distribution Operations Center (DDOC) staff of the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) with the performance of movement planning tasks. The principal focus of the TRANSWAY® toolset is re-planning. The objective of TRANSWAY® is to provide DDOC operators with an intelligent planning engine that receives data from GTN and JOPES, and utilizes the existing Integrated Computerized Deployment System (ICODES) and Joint Forces Collaborative Toolkit (JFCT®; -formerly known as SEAWAY) agent-based applications as functional extensions.

With its initial and immediate focus on the DDOC and the JDDOCs in the theater, the TRANSWAY® toolset is designed as a component of a larger adaptive decision-support environment that is expected to evolve over the next several years. The broader focus of this umbrella decision-support environment is to support the Combatant Commands and USTRANSCOM in logistic planning and execution at the strategic and operational levels. In particular, this decision-support environment must provide the necessary connections between changing requirements and changes in the strategic flow of supplies and equipment to the Joint Operating Area. Joint operations are currently conducted in a framework that lacks key linkages between the joint force sustainment requirement and the supply and transport processes that must satisfy this requirement.

Both the TRANSWAY® toolset and the more gradually evolving umbrella decision-support environment, of which it forms a component part, exemplify the planned transition of the existing USTRANSCOM Corporate Data Environment (CDE) to an intelligent Corporate Information-Centric Environment (CICE) with knowledge management capabilities. Compliant with the principles defined by the Department of Defense Net-Centric Data Strategy (Stenbit 2003), the proposed CICE architecture is designed to support the incremental implementation of progressively more intelligent and powerful tools operating within an adaptive collaborative decision-support environment that alerts its users to unforeseen events, assesses risks, identifies opportunities, generates alternatives, maintains in-transit visibility, facilitates time-critical re-planning, and collects lessons learned.

TRANSWAY® has been designed and implemented according to the principles of a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and incorporates an integrated set of functional capabilities in the form of intelligent web-based thin-client and distributed thick-client tools. These tools, referred to as Knowledge Management Enterprise Services (KMES®), are self-contained software modules with powerful functional capabilities and clearly defined interface specifications. They are designed to be platform independent and may be configured to any particular execution environment. However, most importantly they are reusable as components of any system that has a need for their capabilities. Some of these services may have quite narrow capabilities such as the mapping of data imported from an external source to an internal information model or ontology, while others will incorporate larger functional domains such as the optimum routing of goods from multiple origins along alternative routes to multiple destinations.

The KMES® approach to software systems incorporates intelligent agent technology to analyze and categorize incoming signals and data, and then issue warnings and alerts as appropriate. The agents manipulate the incoming data within an internal information-centric representation framework (i.e., ontology) to publish statements of implication, and if so empowered, proceed to develop plans for appropriate action. Legacy data-centric systems can become clients of such an agent-based KMES® software environment through the use of interoperability bridges that map the data model in one system to the information model of the other and allow a two-way data exchange.

The notion of service-oriented is represented as much in the elements of the three distinct tiers (i.e., information, logic, and presentation) of the TRANSWAY® architecture, as it is in the functional capabilities of each KMES® component. Therefore, even the internal elements of a KMES® component communicate through standard interfaces as they provide services to each other. They are, in essence, decoupled software modules that can be replaced with improved modules as the technology advances. Each of these modules functions in an integrated fashion to form a comprehensive agent-based decision-support execution framework.

In summary, KMES® modules are intelligent, self-contained software components that are capable of performing narrowly defined tasks within a net-centric system environment. They are distinguished from legacy software systems in five ways. First, they adhere to clearly defined application programming interface (API) specifications, but are otherwise decoupled from the service requesters that they interface with. Second, they are reusable and can be interfaced with systems that require the kinds of services that they provide. Third, they are able to provide their services to both human users and other software systems. Fourth, their capabilities are enabled when they are configured (i.e., initialized) with the terminology and notions of the target domain. Fifth, they are self-contained and can be replaced by improved modules as the technology advances.

Like all KMES® components that CDM Technologies has developed over the past 12 years, the TRANSWAY® suite of planning and decision-support tools have been designed and implemented within the Integrated Cooperative Decision Making (ICDM) software environment1. ICDM is an application development framework for distributed decision-support systems incorporating software agents that collaborate with each other and human users to monitor changes (i.e., events) in the state of problem situations, generate and evaluate alternative plans, and alert human users to immediate and developing resource shortages, failures, threats, and similar adverse conditions. A core component of any ICDM-based application is a virtual representation of the real world problem (i.e., decision-making) domain. This virtual representation takes the form of an internal information model, commonly referred to as an ontology. By providing context (i.e., data plus relationships) the ontology is able to support the automated reasoning capabilities of rule-based software agents.

Principal objectives that are realized to varying degrees by the ICDM Development Toolkit include: support of an ontology-based, distributed, information-centric system environment that limits internal communications to changes in information; ability to automatically push changes in information to clients, based on individual subscription profiles that are changeable during execution; ability of clients to assign priorities to their subscription profiles; ability of clients to generate information queries in addition to their standing subscription-based requests; automatic management of object relationships (i.e., associations) during the creation, deletion and editing of objects; support for the management of internal communication transmissions through load balancing, self-diagnosis, self-association and self-healing capabilities; and, the ability to interface with external data sources through interoperability bridges and ontological facades.

An Iterative Spiral Development Strategy has been adopted for the TRANSWAY® project. This software engineering approach fosters user participation throughout the design process, by bringing pre-release versions of the evolving application to potential users at relatively short time intervals throughout the development period. In this way users are encouraged to provide feedback on existing capabilities and recommendations for additional capabilities. The new demands on joint and coalition operations, which have precipitated a re-examination of deployment and distribution objectives and performance expectations, are likely to change significant aspects of joint theater distribution. Under these circumstances only an iterative development strategy will allow TRANSWAY® development to stay aligned with the corresponding changes in functionality requirements.

Disciplines

Software Engineering

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URL: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cadrc/9