Fraunhofer FKIE conducts research and development for C2IS since the mid-1960s, both for the military and the civil domain. Within MIP, it leads the team for maintaining and further developing the MIM. We will give a concise introduction into C2 information systems (C2IS) and levels of interoperability, specify the purpose of the MIM, and give an overview on the model, its management, tool support, and ecosystem, including the transformation to OWL. On the whole, we will describe and discuss challenges and solutions for managing, further developing and applying a standard information model for multinational (civil-) military cooperation.
Information modelling has a long history in the military world. The purpose is to enable the information exchange between heterogeneous C2IS. A C2IS provides a common operational picture to support commanders in planning and operation. Most C2 information is geo-referenced, i.e. it is usually displayed on a map. (Exchanging information for consistently displaying it on maps is a key requirement for distributed C2IS.) Early attempts to harmonize C2 information on the international level date back to the 1980s. Yet, three decades and several technology generations later, semantic interoperability between information systems is still a challenge. Its importance has even grown in the light of multinational operations, like in Afghanistan.
The Multilateral Interoperability Programme (MIP) develops interoperability specifications for C2IS and conducts and supports conformance and interoperability testing. Within the programme, the MIP Information Model (MIM) is defined and continuously further developed. The MIM is composed of a few basic concepts such as “Object”, “Action”, “Location”, “Capability”, and relationships among them. In total, it defines approximately 2.300 types of objects, about 500 different actions, about 400 code lists (complete, extensible, managed and ordered codes), and a wide variety of metadata, including information on the reporter and observer, on the operational and intelligence appraisal of information, the validity time period, and the security classification. The MIM is a UML class model at its heart that comes with a number of artefacts/products, including class diagrams (sub-views), OCL-constraints, documentation attached to model elements, and examples represented by UML object models and shown in terms of UML object diagrams. It has been designed with regard to readability, modularity, extensibility, semantic strictness, and model consistency.
Different communities of interest may use relevant concepts of the MIM as their common ground and define translation rules on top of it to map between their specific models and ontologies. The MIM supports the NATO “Semantic Interoperability Logical Framework” (SILF). When applying the SILF, it is possible to import MIM concepts, enrich the semantics as required, and apply SILF analysis and translation rules. To this end, a set of tools for model tailoring and transformation is provided. In particular, the MIM features a generator that transforms the UML model into an OWL 2 DL ontology. The model supports the notion of the web of linked data, enabling the integration of models that use the same name for different concepts. A Linked Data Server (LDS) facilitates navigation through the MIM, providing information in various formats, namely as HTML-pages and SVG-graphics, in XML and JSON. The LDS also features powerful search capabilities with fuzzy search and keyword auto-completion. It is integrated in the MIM portal and available at https://www.mimworld.org/mim/.
The MIM is referring to and, as far as possible, integrating various standards and legacy data models of C2 information, tactical symbols, and sensor data, among others. It replaces its predecessor , the “Joint Consultation, Command, and Control Information Exchange Data Model” (JC3IEDM]. Members of the MIM standardising committee meet four times a year for two weeks to discuss and decide on amendments. Continuous changes impose technical challenges for configuration management. All artefacts are integrated into and linked with each other in a single model repository (in Sparx Enterprise Architect format). Specialised validation tools have been developed on demand. They perform semantic analyses and check whether the artefacts are sound and consistent. Regularly, extrinsic evaluation of the MIM and its predecessors take place at annual NATO interoperability events, namely CWIX (Coalition Warrior Interoperability eXploration, eXperimentation, eXamination, eXercise ).
C2IS for creating common operational pictures and giving decision support are increasingly applied also in non-military domains. Therefore, data models and ontologies for C2 information exchange become increasingly relevant for civil applications. Respective developments can take into account lessons learned from the military domain.
Hans-Christian is a researcher at the Fraunhofer FKIE, where he is involved in several projects within the areas of semantic interoperability, data modelling, and airport operations. He earned his PhD in computational linguistics at the University of Bonn and worked for various universities and research organisations with a main focus on data science and knowledge representation.