Air Force Research Laboratory
Steven L. Johnson
University of Arkansas
The objective of this project is to address the Human Factors implications of mobile IT in supply chain systems., evaluate how advances in mobile information technology can be incorporated in in-vehicle and off-vehicle systems to improve both efficiency and security, and determine the information required by the various members of the teams that will be making coordinated decisions using real time, sensor and communications technology.
Advances in mobile information technology are being effectively implemented in commercial cargo transport operations. Both on-board (i.e., GPS navigation aids) and off-board (i.e., truck-to-home base communications) information systems are being used by commercial fleets to improve their supply chain performance and reduce operating costs. Sensor and communication technologies (i.e., WiFi, 802.11, XML, Mobile IP, etc.) are receiving a significant amount of research and development attention. Similarly, the user-interfaces characteristics (i.e., displays and controls) are also being actively researched. However, the effectiveness of these advanced systems will ultimately be determined by the performance of the individuals that make decisions based on the information provided. Currently, the hardware and software technologies are out-pacing the understanding what information can be most effectively used and in what form it should be presented to the decision makers. Providing too much information or information in the wrong form can significantly increase the mental workload and result in poor performance in terms of decision times and/or errors. By taking a human-centric approach to the analysis of mobile information systems, the Air Force can maximize the effectiveness of the current and future hardware/software systems that are under development.
The effective use of mobile information systems (i.e., wireless, internet, satellite, etc.) will be an important component of the Sense and Respond Logistics (S&RL) initiative to provide “highly adaptive, self-synchronizing dynamically reconfigurable demand and supply networks that anticipate and stimulate actions to enhance capability or mitigate support shortfalls.” Commercial cargo transport operations are currently applying mobile information technology to improve both the efficiency and security of their operations. Examples that have potential applicability to the Air Force include: critical shipment tracking, border crossings, remotely disabling a vehicle through satellite communication, and “geofencing” to provide an alert when a transport enters a restricted area or leaves a designated route. Until recently the DoD has had a prohibition on wireless systems due to communication security issues. However, the new DoD wireless policy (DoD Overarching Wireless Policy) recognizes the extensive benefits that can be gained in efficiency and transport security through the use of these rapidly advancing technologies. With the new policy, the use of mobile information systems will increase rapidly within Air Force logistics systems. Understanding the information required by the various members of the teams that will be making coordinated decisions using real-time, mobile information technology (manufacturer, carrier, dispatcher, truck driver, Air Force customer) will be a critical aspect of ensuring cost-effective systems.