Harnessing the Power of Digital Integration and Interoperability
Digital transformation – the evolution of systems engineering (SE) methods, processes, and tools from document-centric approaches to model- and data-centric approaches – is a critical enabler for modern SE with immense promise. The United States (US) Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center in Picatinny, NJ requires technical advancements in SE to support the rapid development of interconnected solutions and intelligent armaments for an ever-changing environment. As such, the DEVCOM Armaments Center tasked the SERC with research that helps to better define the environment and requirements for digital engineering (DE).
Dr. Mark Blackburn, SERC Senior Research Scientist and Research Council member (Stevens Institute of Technology), leads the task on transforming SE through model-based systems engineering (MBSE). In a 2022 presentation, Blackburn described how the research has helped to formalize the data included in
systems design, which improves interoperability compared to traditional techniques that often result in disconnected data, requirements, and analysis. This formalization improves the ability to understand a system across domains and disciplines, and the cross-cutting perspective enables insights into the missions that a system supports. This research illustrates several milestones in the SERC digital engineering roadmap, which emphasizes the role of model-based systems engineering in strengthening SE and supporting decision-making. The research task includes foundational ontologies to support the work. Ontologies capture the concepts and categories for a system and illustrate both their properties and the relations between them.
As part of the work for the Armaments Center, Blackburn’s team has developed a framework and architecture to define a digital environment: the Armaments Interoperability and Integration Framework (IoIF). The research team used semantic technologies to further categorize and process the data in a DE environment. The Armaments IoIF uses this semantically integrated data to support the understanding of an authoritative baseline for models in a system.
The IoIF shows the information that is required to flow from one analysis type to another. In the traditional approach, the connections between disciplines require that data flow between tools and sources, yet integration of tools is non-binary. The IoIF illustrates examples of what data elements can be moved across tools that may not typically be integrated fully.
One of the important uses for IoIF is to make authoritative data accessible to decision-makers by illustrating some of the trade space in a system. One way in which IoIF does this is through the use of dashboards, which provide useful insights into data through visualizations like charts and graphs, as well as track critical metrics such as key performance indicators (KPIs). These dashboards include variables that can be changed by decision-makers, allowing them to test decisions through the workflows and see the potential impacts of different options.
Blackburn also described the intent to transition this research to the broader practitioner community as DEVCOM makes the IoIF available.
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