CDM Technical Report: CDM-17-04, August 1, 2004, pages 1-89.
This report provides an overview description of the Toolkit for Information Representation and Agent Collaboration (TIRAC™) software framework for the development of intelligent decision-support applications. More technical descriptions of TIRAC™ are contained in a companion CDM Technical Report (CDM-19-03) entitled: ‘The TIRAC™ Development Toolkit: Technical Description’.
TIRAC™ is an application development framework and toolkit for 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 TIRAC-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 TIRAC™ toolkit include: support of an ontology-based, information-centric, distributed 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 translators and ontological facades. Most importantly, the TIRAC™ toolkit is designed to support the machine generation of significant portions of both the server and client side code of an application. This is largely accomplished with scripts that automatically build an application engine by integrating toolkit components with the ontological properties derived from the internal information model. In this respect, an TIRAC-based application consists of loosely coupled, generic services (e.g., subscription, query, persistence, agent engine), which in combination with the internal domain-specific information model are capable of satisfying the functional requirements of the application field.
Particular TIRAC™ design notions and features that have been incorporated in response to the increasing need for achieving interoperability among heterogeneous systems include: support for overarching ontologies in combination with more specialized, domain-specific, lower level facades; compliance with Defense Information Infrastructure (DII) Common Operating Environment (COE) segmentation principles, and their recent transition to the more challenging information-centric objectives of the Global Information Grid (GIG) Enterprise Services (GES) environment; seamless transition from one functional domain to another; operational integration to allow planning, rehearsal, execution, gaming, and modeling functions to be supported within the same application; and, system diagnosis with the objective of ensuring graceful degradation through self-monitoring, self-diagnosis, and failure alert capabilities.
An TIRAC-based software development process offers at least four distinct advantages over current data-centric software development practices. First, it provides a convenient structured transition to information-centric software applications and systems in which computer-based agents with reasoning capabilities assist human users to accelerate the tempo and increase the accuracy of decision-making activities. Second, TIRAC™ allows software developers to automatically generate a significant portion of the code, leaving essentially only the domain-specific user-interface functions and individual agents to be designed and coded manually. Third, TIRAC™ disciplines the software development process by shifting the focus from implementation to design, and by structuring the process into clearly defined stages. Each of these stages produces a set of verifiable artifacts, including a well defined and comprehensive documentation trail. Finally, TIRAC™ provides a development platform for achieving interoperability by formalizing a common language and compatible representation across multiple applications.