StormCenter Communications, Inc. software takes advantage of cloud computing solutions to solve the growing need for real-time collaboration when accessing a Common Operating Picture (COP) from any device without having to give up all the vital tools and display functionality; all this is performed without disrupting current workflows. A COP is a platform shared by multiple stakeholders to provide a single, identical display of relevant operational information (i.e., mapping information, network operations and cyber security, sensors, weather, critical infrastructure) and tools to mark and manipulate the data. In the era of Big Data and the need for improved decision-making with the presence of multiple stakeholders across different disciplines, collaboration when using a COP is essential to success. This is especially important when dealing with decision-makers who are frequently non-data experts who need to take action immediately based on their situational awareness.

Workflows with high levels of information sharing require a robust, collaborative technology to improve decision-making. In the past, data sharing efforts were often referred to as collaborative in nature, even though there was no actual collaboration occurring; it was simply data updating and sharing for individual user display. Other technologies based on remote desktop control allowed for collaboration of two users on one user desktop, but in actuality, the end result was only one desktop displaying the relevant COP information. When the remote control was disengaged, remote users ceased to have control over, and could no longer see, the COP or related information.

StormCenter has designed and developed collaboration interfaces that transmit commands between different COPs over the Internet, and enables a presenter (or LEAD) to take control over all the COPs actively connected to the collaboration. This one-of-a-kind software allows for cross-COP collaboration, regardless of whether the users connect from the same or different COP, devices, platforms, browsers, software, or servers. This is particularly valuable when dealing with special functions or unique capabilities that are required for the increased complexity of intra- or inter-organizational decisionmaking, and in the presence of multiple stakeholders with multiple disparate COPs. With the collaborative interface, participants connect to a session from their own COP to see all the functions performed on the presenter’s COP. The leadership role can be handed over to any of the participants at any time. Additionally, StormCenter has designed and implemented a common sequence command messaging structure that can be extended to support cross-platform (computer) and cross-client (COP) collaboration. As participants relinquish lead functions, new presenters can add and, therefore, fuse their own datasets without losing the datasets and annotations that had been shared by other participants up to that point during the collaboration. At the end of each collaboration session, all participants have the full set of data shared, as well as annotations created during the collaboration on their personal COP still active on their individual computers. The COP collaboration can be conducted across multiple geobrowser technologies and computer operating system platforms through implementation of the common sequence command messaging structure developed, based on XML.

The collaborative software client can run as a standalone application, or as a server-based Web application. As more and more services migrate to the Web, browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome have become a “universal client” that allows access to any COP. (Note that even services that are entirely “server-based” may require some kind of minimal software installation on a client device, such as a plug-in for an Internet browser.)

StormCenter’s collaborative software, which uses a COP, enables total and true commonality and collaboration across all stakeholders accessing data. This technology empowers multiple users, in multiple locations, using a variety of digital display devices, to simultaneously share, manipulate, and interact with one another and the same sets of data. This simple yet efficient approach to accessing and manipulating data collaboratively becomes critical to delivering the right information to the right people at the right time.

This work was done by Rafael Ameller and David Jones of StormCenter Communications, Inc. for Stennis Space Center. For more information, contact Rafael Ameller at 410-203-1316, or 1450 S. Rolling Rd., Baltimore, MD 21227; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.GeoCollaborate.com . Refer to SSC-00441.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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