NRL EVIS Capability Transitions to the Fleet;
Provides Tactical Weather Forecasting Tools for Military Operations

1/28/2008 - 11-08r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

The Naval Research Laboratory's Environmental Visualization (EVIS) project, an innovative technology that automates workflow to provide mission critical weather effect products for the warfighter, has fully transitioned from the laboratory to the Fleet and is being implemented for defense operations worldwide by the Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) in Monterey, California.

A collaborative effort between NRL's main site in Washington, DC, NRL-Monterey, and the University of Washington's Applied Physics Lab, EVIS provides a web-services-based environmental "workshop" that allows users to access high-resolution meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) information from a remote server, create customized products for mission planning, publish their products to a secure networked enterprise, and accomplish this roughly 40 percent faster than with previous tools.

Based on pre-defined matrix of mission effect rules that can be modified by the user, forecasters can select parameters and the EVIS system then generates mission impact summaries and related map images that can be posted to the FNMOC website and advertised throughout the network. EVIS rules are specific to types of military platforms or operations. They can be retrieved from a web server or a local file and can be customized by the forecaster. In addition to generating individual custom maps, EVIS has detailed route forecasting capability, where the user can enter multiple waypoints and restrict forecast analysis to regions or along paths. Because the system is easy to use, the forecasters are now making better use of high resolution models, which show the effects of the natural environment on personnel, sensors, weapon systems, platforms, and missions.

EVIS is a web-services-based content provider that uses a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to remotely fulfill the forecasters' informational needs, much the way services such as Google maps and email are provided to a user over the network. Essentially, the user points a web browser to the EVIS web application, which orchestrates the product creation process into an efficient, user-centric workflow. This orchestration will determine what pieces of information a user needs at various stages in the environmental effects forecasting process (using parameters provided by the user) and requests the missing information from different web-enabled data sources. The SOA retrieves the data and fulfills the request from the user. With the EVIS design, users are "reaching-back" across the network to get only the information they need. This capability basically provides a quick, interactive, highly efficient workflow support for users.

A return on investment analysis documented other benefits of the EVIS system compared to current operations to include fast access to more timely and accurate data, lower probability of decision-making error and operational risk, reduced costs, more accurately targeted force, shorter time to mission goals and lower risk to forces. SOA can also save on the purchase and maintenance of IT equipment at remote locations.

EVIS evolved as a result of a drawback of forward-deployed Navy METOC personnel who needed help. Workflow productivity lagged as users spent time producing their maps using methods that were complex, time consuming and error prone. User interface was a major consideration, but developers first had to understand the job of tactical forecasting and the role of the human in the decision-making process. During training exercises, forecasters and technicians were videotaped and observed real-time working on hypothetical forecast products. The experiments showed that EVIS could reduce the time spent producing products by half, and with almost no training.

To develop an environmental impact product (typically a PowerPoint presentation) in the traditional manner, the forecasters had to view a lot of data, and then build mental models to represent the data, render images and attach information. It was also noted that rules, which are essential for automated systems as they provide the foundation a common framework for people working within a system, could be designed to run against environmental data and provide the forecasters with much more data than they could generate on their own. However, the forecasters needed the flexibility to change pre-defined rules when a situation warranted.

By providing advanced visualization support, more efficient workflow support and better graphics design, EVIS developers were able to address the inefficiencies they had observed. They redesigned the data retrieval and product production process using web services technology to focus on "smart retrieval" by letting the forecaster define the parameters instead of retrieving general weather or oceanographic charts.

EVIS operates on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET). Users sign on to the EVIS web portlet and the EVIS server decides which distributed applications to present, based on the user's status or role, which is acquired from an access control service. When creating mission critical elements, the users who are approved to post mission effects in collateral space select the level of security for the product, choosing who will have access. Data can be restricted by clearance and citizenship.

Scientists at NRL-Monterey were responsible for the architecture, developing, implementing, and testing the services and the weather-database connection. The University of Washington Applied Physics Lab designed the user interface. Researchers at NRL's Washington, DC location handled user assessment, some aspects of the SOA development, security documentation, accreditation and project leadership and management.

FNMOC is now supporting the transition of the second iteration of EVIS to their Applications, Transactions, Observations Subsystem version 2 (ATOS2). This iteration of EVIS software will enhance operations by accessing an improved multi-service rule database and will have access to an increased volume of meteorological and oceanographic information.

EVIS was originally sponsored by the Office of Naval Research under the Future Naval Capabilities program that focused on the human systems component of the Navy's METOC community. In 2004, EVIS was integrated into the Horizontal Fusion (HF) Program for secure information sharing in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and selected under this program for transition to the Fleet. Projects such as EVIS help preserve legacy investments and focus technology effort around persistent availability of information rather than perpetual replacement of systems.

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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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