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The Ozone Widget Framework: Towards Modularity of C2 Human Interfaces

David Benjamin Hellar, Laurian C. Vega Next Century Corporation, 7075 Samuel Morse Drive, Columbia, MD USA
ABSTRACT
The Ozone Widget Framework (OWF) is a common webtop environment for distribution across the enterprise. A key mission driver for OWF is to enable rapid capability delivery by lowering time-to-market with lightweight components. OWF has been released as Government Open Source Software and has been deployed in a variety of C2 net-centric contexts ranging from real-time analytics, cyber-situational awareness, to strategic and operational planning. This paper discusses the current and future evolution of OWF including the availability of the OZONE Marketplace (OMP), useractivity driven metrics, and architecture enhancements for accessibility. Together, OWF is moving towards the rapid delivery of modular human interfaces supporting modern and future command and control contexts. Keywords: Ozone, OWF, GOSS, user interface, visual analytics, usability 1. INTRODUCTION

Network Centric Warfare is characterized by the ever growing need for humans-in-the-loop between the collection and fusion of rich heterogeneous data and the need for real-time situational awareness and decision making. Hall et al., introduced this idea of Human-Centered Fusion where humans serve multiple roles ranging from providing additional inputs as soft sensors to providing high-level overview and support of visual analytics and automated reasoning. [1] In this realm of Human-Centered Fusion, the graphical user interface is the forefront from which humans can perform any of these functions. The demands of network-centric warfare environments and command and control (C2) systems necessitate that human computer interfaces support users to analyze minute-by-minute data streams real-time analytics across distributed enterprise environments. This is a challenge for software engineering, to create systems that integrate constantly updated data streams along with verifying data pedigree, and one for human factors engineering, to create a meaningful interface that allows users to visually parse and make meaning out of a mass amount of data. Any C2 system needs to support real-time visual analytics while avoiding information and cognitive overload. This paper discusses the OZONE family of products, including the popular OZONE Widget Framework, hereby referred to as OWF, and the OZONE Marketplace. These products were built to fit the needs of human centered fusion activities in network centric warfare environments. The OZONE family of products is designed as a presentation layer toolkit that can be rapidly deployed in a variety of mission contexts ranging from strategic planning to enabling the creation of a real-time common operational picture and situation awareness applications [2] [3]. Indeed the OZONE family of products has been adopted by many members of Department of Defense and Intelligence Communities and is widely available for free across government organizations in the IC, DoD, DoJ, and State Department spaces. OWF is a Government Open Source Software (GOSS) platform, meaning the core development of OWF is directed by an inter-agency advisory board that prioritizes new features based on government mission and business needs [4]. GOSS also implies that contributions from the greater government community are encouraged and integrated into the base package for community distribution. This paper introduces features that are either currently under development or likely to be included in the near future for the OZONE family of products including: 1. Empowering distributed architecture with user-driven metrics. 2. Enhancing the core technology platform for increased robustness and improved accessibility support. 3. Growing the capability set of discoverable widgets through an integrated OZONE Marketplace solution.

2.

INTRODUCTION TO THE OWF INTERFACE

The OZONE Widget Framework, OWF, is built on a lightweight web architecture that is accessed from a users web browser. It is a rich internet application that facilitates the customization of interaction between reusable web applications called widgets along with providing a desktop metaphor for organizing larger collections called dashboards. Figure 1, shown below, illustrates a scenario in OWF where a user has opened four widgets onto a single dashboard. The widgets are layered on top of one another per the expected webtop experience. Additionally present in Figure 1 is the Launch Menu (right justified), from which widgets can be opened; a top banner, from which users can access key OWF capabilities such as access to creating and selecting new dashboards; and, a task bar (bottom justified), from which users can quickly access any widget. These capabilities and others allow users to breakdown large context specific applications into generic reusable components that other teams in an organization can take advantage of. Thus OWF enables users to customize and personalize their dashboard for their particular needs and mission critical tasks.

Figure 1. Screen capture of OWF showing OWF with four open widgets along with the launch menu.

3.

FLEXIBLE CENTRALIZED METRICS

In an enterprise application such as OWF, metrics are useful to evaluate the various characteristics of system usage and performance. This information is valuable to implementers and stakeholders alike. Implementers receive key information about how their widget is being used so that they can improve their applications. Stakeholders use metrics to validate system accountability and evaluate the overall success of their applications. In the OWF, the goal of collecting user metrics is to facilitate a flexible centralized metrics service as shown in Figure 2. This service will automatically collect usage data about widgets deployed on a dashboard. Potential metrics for this service include the number of unique times (views) a widget is accessed. Initially, this data will be stored locally to each OWF instance, and will be publicly accessible through REST protocols. Enhancements to the initial project include a Metrics Viewer widget that will retrieve the data and display it in tabular and graphical forms. This service will be deployed and integrated with the base OWF bundle. To take advantage of these built in metrics will require no additional development, and will occur automatically. Additionally, people who deploy instances of OWF will be able to create their own custom metrics, using a new metrics API developed by the OWFGOSS team, which publishes their metrics to the service. This provides the implementer the ultimate flexibility in deciding which metrics are important for their application. Furthermore, as the OZONE family of products is government open source, metrics developed by the community can be rolled into the baseline package of OWF for future releases.

In the future, the ultimate goal of the metrics service is to enhance capabilities, creating a modular service in the OZONE family. As an independent service, the flexible metrics service would be configurable and scalable from a related OWF instance. As a configuration property, an OWF administrator could define the location of the OZONE Metrics service. In this manner, the metrics service would be able to support multiple instances of OWF, providing a common centralized repository for OWF Metrics on the enterprise. Figure 2 below illustrates the intended distributed architecture for the flexible centralized metrics service.

Figure 2. A centralized distributed architecture for an independent OZONE Metrics service.

In this example, there are three enterprise instances of OWF. Instances A, B, and C share a common metrics service, allowing stakeholders to evaluate components across all instances. Instance C of OWF is a traditional installation, containing its own metrics service. In this model instance C can choose to share its data either locally or with the centralized metrics server. By decoupling the metrics service from OWF, applications external to OWF, such as the OZONE Marketplace, will be able to take advantage of the Metrics service. 4. ACCESSIBILITY & OWF

Currently, OWF has been adopted in more than a dozen Department of Defense and Intelligence Community organizations. With such broad usage and the mandate to support all possible users of OWF, accessibility is not merely a need that has been tacked onto the end, but instead broader need that has been and continues to be incorporated deeply into OWF. Accessibility is commonly associated with 508 Compliance, a term that is used to describe the degree to which an application or webpage is in accordance with Section 508, the 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [5]. The law stipulates that all federal agencies make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. However, Section 508 has become a limited standard, and one that has been documented to not address the valid concerns related to accessibility (see [6], [7], [8]). Thus, designing websites and rich internet applications like OWF involves considering numerous concerns related to creating a usable product for people with disabilities. In an effort to make OWF more accessible, we have researched technologies that can be built into OWF as initial steps: (1) screen reader support, to enable a program to read the elements within OWF to the user; (2) keyboard navigation support, to enable users to navigate within OWF without the use of a mouse and limited keystrokes; and, (3) highcontrast themes, to enable users to more easily distinguish the UI elements of OWF. These are discussed in depth below. Screen readers are a technology application that interacts with a graphical user interface to read the content and describe the elements that are on a user's screen. The screen reader works by metaphorically latching on to meta-tags that are in the applications code, processing the information provided in the tag, and then reading the appropriate information to the user. This tagging technology is accomplished through Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) tags. Within OWF, each UI element will be ARIA tagged to support describing the following capabilities:

Roles to describe the type of UI element presented, such as "menu," "treeitem," "slider," and "progressmeter and the structure of the web page, such as headings, regions, and tables. Properties to describe the state that widgets are in, such as "checked" for a check box, or "haspopup" for a menu. Properties for drag-and-drop that describe drag sources and drop targets. A way to provide keyboard navigation for the web objects and events, such as those mentioned above.

Keyboard navigation refers to using only the keyboard to be able to locate, move between, and jump to different UI elements. As webpages become increasingly interactive, how to move from interface element to interface element becomes increasingly tricky. For example, web pages previously may have been composed of left-hand navigation and text within the central panel. However, in rich internet applications like OWF, the design can easily deviate from the standard web interface scheme. However, the dynamic nature of rich web interfaces such as OWF makes providing simple keyboard navigation difficult. To make OWF keyboard navigable three changes will be made to the interaction mechanisms: (1) all UI elements will be navigable through the use of a key combination; (2) hotkey mappings will be created for key functionality such as the Launch Menu; and, (3) a widget selector will be created that will enable users to quickly navigate between open widgets on their dashboard (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. A sample widget selector that will appear centrally within the UI to list all available open widgets. In this figure the user has selected one widget, Channel Shouter, for it to be brought into focus.

The last accessibility technology, high-contrast themes, refers to the ability to style the UI elements within OWF so that they are of high visual contrast. Users can experience problems from simple eye fatigue due to the color theme present in the interface along with an inability to read or visually perceive UI elements because the contrast between them is not high enough. Without knowledge of all of the diverse issues relating to issues with contrast, OWF will be implemented to not only allow for users to create their own theme, but also provide three accessibility themes that could be of use.

Figure 4. A sample theme selector window for OWF that demonstrates five separate themes that the user can pick from.

The themes that will be provided by default for users to choose from are a white-on-black theme, a black-on-white theme, and a large-text theme. Additionally, users shall be able to increase the text of OWF up to 24 pixels without reducing the functionality of any UI elements. Last, users in OWF will be able to select a theme through a theme selector interface control that will dynamically update the interface based on the users choice. A sample mock-up of a theme selector is presented on the previous page in Figure 4. 5. SEAMLESS INTEGRATION OF MARKETPLACE & OWF

The OZONE Marketplace, or OMP, is a contributor-defined online content repository system that works like an open source appstore [9]. It is integrated to work with OWF to provide users with a storefront for accessing and finding newly shared widgets and other kinds of capabilities (e.g., REST calls, code snippets, desktop applications). OWF functions as a working application for users to carry out their primary tasks. Marketplace works as a supplementary system for the discovery of new capabilities while also managing meta-information about those capabilities. The following is a sample scenario of how OWF and Marketplace work seamlessless to support the user: Tiffany is tracking the location of five very important bad guys through widgets within her OWF dashboard. She realizes that to do her job better she could use a widget that compares salient qualities of these individuals and highlights unique ones. She decides to see if her organizations Marketplace has such a widget. She opens her Marketplace widget within OWF, does a search within Marketplace, and finds what appears to be an appropriate widget. She reads the reviews, and sees a comment suggesting that there is a better one for her task called Bad Guy Pro. She quickly searches, finds, and selects to download Bad Guy Pro to her OWF Dashboard. She then drags Bad Guy Pro from the Launch Menu onto her dashboard and begins using it seamlessly. Later she goes back to Marketplace and provides a rating for Bad Guy Pro. This scenario demonstrates many critical aspects of Marketplace and its interoperablity with OWF. First, Marketplace can function as a widget within OWF thus enabling users to download a desired widget straight into their OWF instance. Second, Marketplace stores relevant information about a listing such as its rating, reviews, specifications, and meta-data (e.g. when the listing was updated). Third, because Marketplace can store widgets, those widgets can be downloaded an work immediately with other widgets. For example, after downloading Bad Guy Pro Tiffany is able to immediately use it with her Map widget.

Figure 5. A screen capture of Marketplace after a user has filtered on a category.

When not functioning as a widget within OWF, the Marketplace interface is displayed using the typical website visual design. As shown in Figure 4, Marketplace is divided into three areas: a top banner, from which the user can access the

search while also accessing the key functionality of Marketplace; the left-hand filtering, from which users can narrow down listings to view; and, a central content area, from which users can view listings and engage with Marketplace. In Figure 4 the user has filtered on Category A and six listings have been displayed, of which two are visible on the screen above-the-fold. 6. CONCLUSION

The OZONE family of products, OWF and Marketplace, are building blocks for creating a modular human-centered fusion approach for network centric warfare operations. As a lightweight presentation layer technology, OZONE provides a common webtop environment for distributed applications across the enterprise. Using OWF Metrics, developers can collect the data they need to further improve the effectiveness of their delivered applications. Using Marketplace to locate and discover new tools, users can rapidly deploy custom solutions that fit the agile needs of their mission. Looking to the future, the OWF GOSS team continues to improve the user interface and architecture of OWF providing deeper integration into the OZONE Marketplace. Potential future enhancements include incorporating ratings in a widgets banner, or enabling users to view meta-information about a widget from within OWF. Additional usability and accessibility enhancements will continue with each revision based on information collected from the community and user studies performed by the OWF GOSS user experience team. Finally, as a GOSS product the OWF team would like to continue to encourage contributions and support from the community at large. If you wish to engage in community as a contributor, or simply track the progress of the program please visit www.owfgoss.org 7. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to thank the OWF team for their hard work. This paper was made possible with support from Nishant Patel, Ross Pokorny, William Mohler, Tina Coleman, and Jason Kahn.

REFERENCES
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