Situation awareness is a critical success factor in military operations. Even when the operational context is not directly adversarial, as is the case in most humanitarian and peace-keeping missions, awareness of the temporal unfolding of events, the strategic displacement of military assets and the ability to anticipate the actions of other (sometimes competing) agencies, all serve to underpin the successful realization of operational objectives. The need for improved situation awareness is particularly important when one considers the increasingly sophisticated technological backdrop against which military operations are typically undertaken. The advent of network-enabled capabilities (NEC) and the growth of the internet as a medium for information dissemination, affords great opportunities for situation awareness, but it also presents some relatively new and distinct challenges. One challenge relates to the need to distinguish relevant information from background noise (the concern here is that highly relevant information may be swamped by less relevant information). Another concern relates to the rate of information dissemination in todayâs media-intensive environment. The concern here is that the dynamics of the situation picture may warrant rapid switching between different problem-solving goals. When goal switching is mandated by changing operational commitments then different subsets of information will need to be dynamically integrated or aggregated to support changing situation awareness concerns.
AKTiveSA is a 3 year project that forms part of the Data and Information Fusion Defence Technology Centre (DIF DTC) initiative. Its aim is to explore knowledge-based approaches to information fusion and enhanced situation awareness in military operational contexts other than war (MOOTW), specifically humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. As part of the effort to improve situation awareness, AKTiveSA exploits domain ontologies that enhance information exchange and inter-operability between diverse agencies and user communities (e.g. NGOs, UN agencies, coalition forces, government departments, etc). It also introduces the idea of semantic filters that provide filtered views of the situation picture to support task-relevant information processing. Technological components, called knowledge monitors, support situation awareness by actively monitoring the situation picture for events that impact on current plans or problem-solving goals. These components are defined in terms of semantic queries that execute as background processes, constantly monitoring the totality of the information space and alerting users to relevant changes via a variety of output formats, e.g. emails, RSS, SMS, etc. AKTiveSA also devotes considerable attention to user interface design issues and this is reflected in the development of the AKTiveSA Technical Demonstrator System (TDS), a sophisticated user interface that combines 3-D visualization components with novel ontology browsing and navigation techniques. The scientific and technological outcomes of the AKTiveSA project support other e-Defence research initiatives within the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. These include the SEMIOTIKS initiative, which focuses on information extraction, knowledge processing and information visualization; and the MIMEX initiative, which concentrates on situation awareness enhancement and information exploitation in hostile information environments.