Looking Glass

Looking Glass

Anni R. Coden (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, USA), John R. Harrald (Virginia Tech, USA), Michael Tanenblatt (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, USA), Theresa Jefferson (Loyola University, USA) and Pamela Murray-Tuite (Virginia Tech, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2012010102
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Looking Glass enables the discovery of a city’s vulnerabilities in a scenario along with the exploration of alternative resolutions and their accompanying side effects. It is a tool for enabling city officials to bridge the silos defined by people, processes, and organizations; the decision support framework can be used to discover interdependencies between a city’s infrastructure elements, its protocols (procedures) and its people’s actions over time. It is a tool for preparedness planning for natural and man-made threats, providing visualization of scenarios as they unfold, allowing observation and measurement of the effects of ad-hoc decisions. Looking Glass is a dynamic data driven system where the data can be interactively manipulated with the human-in-the-loop module during simulation. In general, the key performance parameters are the time, resources, and cost of resolving an incident, both financial costs and the costs associated with the health, safety, and happiness of the population. A prototype was demonstrated to city and county officials who were excited about the benefits of Looking Glass for their organizations.
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“Tell me and I will forget, Show me and I may remember, Involve me and I will understand.” Chinese Proverb

A city is administered by a set of agencies, businesses and institutions, each of which is governed by different protocols, objectives and constraints. However, responding to complex situations requires a “shared common operating picture and situational awareness” (Harrald, 2007). Human decisions often must be made without the ability to quickly assess consequences due to the multifaceted interdependencies of all affected systems, either because they are not covered by protocol or because no solution within the required constraints exists. People also adjust their behavior to abnormalities within their surroundings (e.g., unexpected closure of a metro station). Such actions may affect the ability to execute established protocols (e.g., dispatching emergency crews, evacuating people).

Looking Glass is a system in which a shared common operating environment can be maintained and effects of decisions can be explored. The scenario addressed by Looking Glass in its first release is the responses to a complex emergency event (a toxic release in a busy metro station) to demonstrate the ability of linked simulation based models to provide unique insights and support to responsible organizations and individuals. The discovery and exploration of the effects of interdependencies between interconnected urban systems and human behaviors is the objective of Looking Glass. Since it is not feasible to build and maintain a single “world model” spanning all interconnected and interdependent systems, Looking Glass assumes that each system (in this system of systems) is modeled in its own right. Examples of such systems are traffic simulation, human behavior and weather models. Connections between systems do not have to be explicitly specified; their interdependencies in a given situation are discovered through simulation, taking varied human behavior (decisions) into account. For example, during a simulation, a human can interactively trigger an event such as closing a road, or change the rate of pedestrian traffic at certain locations. A key aspect is that each system (e.g., weather model, car and pedestrian traffic, emergency vehicle dispatch scheduler) is assumed to be a “black box” with only the inputs and outputs known. This assumption mimics the real world where independent agencies create their own protocols and assets according to given constraints and optimization goals, and humans frequently act differently than anticipated. With Looking Glass, one is able explore the impacts that even seemingly small human decisions have on situations that have been carefully planned. A visualization engine and business intelligence application are part of Looking Glass, however, the system is not tied to any particular realization of these engines.


Review Of Literature

Emergency response planning, training and incident impact are being studied extensively by government agencies, academic institutions and commercial companies alike. It is an ever-evolving area, as preparedness is only as good as the assumptions on which it is based. However, there seem to be an infinite number of circumstances for emergencies to occur. Protocols, at times, provide multiple decision points on how to address a situation. However, an incident commander cannot analyze all possibilities by him/herself to decide on the most appropriate course of actions, so tooling is a necessary aid.

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