DOD tests online workspace| GCN

Mitre Corp. has developed a suite of integrated collaboration tools that could change
the way Defense Department staffs work together.


Mitre’s Collaborative Virtual Workspace (CVW) is a multiuser object-oriented
computing environment in which people interact with documents and one another in a shared
virtual space. CVW has audio, video, chat and whiteboard features.


Mitre developed CVW under an R&D program. DOD officials told the Bedford, Mass.,
company they wanted to supply personnel all over the country with a collaborative work
environment, said Mark Maybury, executive director of Mitre’s information technology
center.


“A number of years back, Mitre recognized the need to support DOD with
capabilities such as virtual command posts and virtual analysis,” he said. “We
realized that people weren’t always together—either in time or space.”


CVW provides the illusion of shared physical space in a virtual building that is
divided into rooms where people gather to share documents and discuss topics,
communicating through audio, video and text. As CVW users move from room to room, they
enter new group sessions to meet with new team members and potential collaborators.


“This notion of providing a place has important consequences—it doesn’t
go away like a phone call when you hang up,” said John Kordash, Mitre’s lead
engineer on the project. “When all the participants in a conference leave that room,
the items, results, documents and discussions don’t go away with CVW.”


The application is different from other collaborative environments, such as
videoconferencing systems, because it captures the interactions and data created during
the sessions, he said.


Documents, whiteboards, uniform resource locators, spreadsheets and notes are visible
to anyone in a room. The documents remain in the room for other visitors to read until
they are removed or deleted.


The Mitre CVW team is developing a capability within CVW to automatically transcribe
and summarize meeting minutes from collaboration sessions, Maybury said.


Just because the data is available in a room, however, does not restrict users from
controlling access to it, he said.


“Just like you can physically lock doors, you can virtually lock the doors to the
room or building to make sure that no one else can have access to your privileged
communication,” Maybury said.


The Air Force tested CVW during the service’s Expeditionary Force Experiment
’98. Air Force personnel in the rear operations support center used it to run the air
campaign. A ROSC is the electronic nerve center from which a joint force air component
commander plans and directs an air campaign.


The ROSC at EFX ’98 was equipped with more than 200 PCs and workstations running
CVW that let the air staff listen to high-level briefings by the joint commander in a
virtual briefing room via audio and video connections.


“Normally in that situation, you couldn’t have 300 people in the same room
unless you were in a lecture hall,” Maybury said. “This is what happens when
physical constraints are no longer significant.”


Mitre is also helping the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and
National Security Agency develop new ways to produce and distribute intelligence
information.


A DOD intelligence agency tested CVW for use during crisis operations.


“It’s as much about changing culture and process as it is about
technology,” Maybury said. “Intelligence organizations whose culture it is not
to collaborate become more collaborative culturally with CVW.”


The intelligence prototype linked 60 analysts from seven offices at once. Crisis
management teams collaborated on mission planning, imagery analysis and intelligence
reports.


About 40 Mitre employees use CVW daily; it runs on Mitre’s TCP/IP network. Users
can log into Mitre’s CVW via a Web browser.


DOD is also using the collaborative tool over the Non-Classified IP Router Network,
Secret IP Router Network and Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.


CVW runs in a client-server environment. The client software is a combination of
Internet tools and custom Mitre applications.


Version 2.8—developed using Tool Command Language, a high-level scripting
language, and Internet shareware—runs under Unix only. Version 3.0 is a Java client
that runs under Unix and Microsoft Windows in a frame-enabled browser.  





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