Is merging app functions easy as PiiE?

A new integration system developed with Defense Department funding can fit the functions of incompatible back-end applications onto a single desktop screen.

The Professional Interactive Information Environment, or PiiE, is already in use by several hundred employees at eight agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Naval Research Laboratory and National Security Agency.

Digital Harbor Inc. of Annandale, Va., next week will start selling PiiE to other agencies. DOD asked the company five years ago to devise a way to make its alphabet soup of applications, which run under 100 operating systems, available from a single terminal.

'Right now, data is horrendously disorganized,' said Scott Elliott, PiiE project manager at the Navy lab. 'We have so many different platforms. None of them have any cross-interoperable capability whatsoever.'

Although Elliott wouldn't mention specific apps, he gave a generic example of how the lab might use PiiE.

In different corners of his screen, he said, he might open a document about the history of al-Qaida terrorism, a mapping application, a streaming-video archive and a database of terrorist suspects.

He then could build links between the different information displays by dragging and dropping. Next, by clicking on a date in a document, say Sept. 11, the displays would change and bring up a map of Arlington, a video of the burning Pentagon, and a list of al-Qaida member backgrounds.

PiiE consists of a component-based smart client that uses Java2 Enterprise Edition and Extensible Markup Language to correlate application functions through what Digital Harbor calls application linking and embedding. It does so-called optimistic streaming via an inference engine and a set of relationships between application functions and data.

Digital Harbor said the interactive display runs independently of the operating systems'such as Mac OS, Microsoft Windows or Sun Solaris'that host the different apps. DOD has bought $30 million worth of PiiE licenses and services over the last five years. The National Research Laboratory has tried out at least a half-dozen versions of the program, Elliott said.

An abridged version of PiiE sells for $50,000, and the full version is $150,000. The company plans to sell directly to agencies but also will partner with Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp., Oracle Corp. and TRW Inc.

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