The Need for Intelligent Change Alerting in Complex Monitoring and Control Systems

Paula J. Durlach and Larry L. Meliza

As the use of networked information processing tools has grown in battlefield systems, it has had the unintended consequence of increasing and complicating the workloads of leaders and battle staffs. Networking enables continuous plan revision and dissemination in response to new information. New information has to be gathered not only from one’s eyes on the external world, but also from digital information systems. In the future this will include information sent from unmanned robotic entities. Current digital systems display information, with the expectation that operators will notice important changes in the display; however, research on human perception and attention suggests that change detection is not reliable in a multi-tasking environment. Operators require assistance in the form of data logging and alerting. With reference to ongoing research in this area, we recommend several properties that an intelligent change alerting system ought to include: (1) a set of default alerts based on expert rules, (2) menu-based alert creation and editing, (3) change database (log of changes) that can be sorted and searched, (4) automatic linkage between related pieces of information (5) selectable alerting mode (e.g., pop-up window vs. auditory alert.), (6) intrusiveness filters, and (7) logging of user reactions to alerts (to provide data for training and further system refinement). In order for an intelligent alerting system to possess these properties, it must be able to tap into the digital data stream flowing on the network. Designers need to ensure that the data required for operator assistance tools is available to be captured, and that such tools are essential integral components of future monitoring and control systems.

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