The International Technology Alliance (ITA) is a consortium of academic of industrial partners that seeks to investigate issues relating to future coalition capabilities, particularly those affecting US and UK forces. The ITA comprises 4 technical areas: network theory (TA1), security within a system of systems (TA2), sensor information processing and delivery (TA3), and distributed coalition planning and decision-making (TA4). Within these technical areas, the research undertaken by the School of Electronics and Computer Science falls within a number of focus areas. These include: semantically-mediated data fusion, semantic integration and interoperability, user interfaces for the Semantic Web, and collaborative planning and plan enrichment.
The future battlespace will feature a range of sophisticated sensor systems that promise to increase the level of battlespace resolution afforded to commanders at all levels of the command chain. In order to make best use of available sensor resources, coalition forces will benefit from data fusion processes that are able to exploit semantically-enriched representations of domain-relevant information. Semantic representations could benefit data fusion in two ways. Firstly, they may facilitate the exploitation of external, contextual information in ways that biases the analysis of low-level feature vectors. Secondly, semantic representations may facilitate the exploitation of fusion-related outcomes by providing a set of stable, symbolic atoms that align themselves with the conceptual infrastructure of the domain of discourse. The ITA Semantically-Mediated Data Fusion initiative aims to evaluate the contribution of semantic technologies to data fusion using a combination of real-world datasets, pattern recognition techniques and domain ontologies.
Semantic integration and interoperability are important capabilities for coalition forces. Coalition operations will typically involve the exploitation and exchange of semantically heterogeneous information, especially when the operational context demands close cooperation with non-military agencies (e.g. diplomatic, humanitarian and civil authorities). The concern is that even in situations where the physical transfer of information is supported by network infrastructures; the meaning of information content may be lost or distorted as it traverses organizational, national and cultural boundaries. The focus of our research in respect of the ITA Semantic Integration and Interoperability initiative is to investigate approaches to information exchange that maximally exploit the potential of the Semantic Web to provide a framework for the consensual interpretations of entities, events and actions across force elements and between coalition partners. The ultimate aim is to provide a foundation for coalition inter-operability, enabling semantic integration with respect to both digital datalink networks and unstructured, non-military information sources.
The aim of the Collaborative Planning and Plan Enrichment initiative is to investigate a number of representational issues that emerge in coalition planning contexts. In particular, the project aims to understand the representational requirements of plans, especially with respect to the representation of critical information (e.g. command intent) that may influence the ability (or propensity) of agents to understand, accept and/or implement a plan. Key research issues include (but are not necessarily limited to) an analysis of the factors that may undermine shared understanding in coalition planning contexts, an analysis of the factors that influence the acceptability or usability of a coalition plan, and an analysis of optimal modes of communicating plan-relevant information in a heterogeneous agent environment.