SolarWheels is a interactive situation awareness display designed to visualize the states and issues of a large-scale computer network. It not only provides the overview of the networks accurately, but also allows multiple operation analysts to interact with it smoothly to get further detailed information about specific issues.
This VAST mini challenge provides the space for designers to make assumptions of a control room setting and system requirements for a computer network. However, to understand more about the context, we interviewed a security analyst from a cyber-security center. Also, one of our team members has working experience as a social media behavioral analyst for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games who participated in monitoring the entire traffic network in and around London. Based on the knowledge of these two interviewees, we infer that Big Enterprise’s control rooms tend to be very hierarchical. This applies to both the personnel and the procedures.
The personnel in a control room are usually divided into teams to do different tasks based on their experience/skill level: juniors deal with routine and simple issues; experienced analysts get the non-routine issues, and experts are usually allocated to the crises issues.
Procedures tend to be strictly managed by team managers. They run the initial quick analysis, and allocate the task to a staff that is suitable and available to solve the issues. The procedure can be done via a software process or purely verbally. For large events like the Olympics monitoring, job allocation was done automatically.
To emphasize and fit into the hierarchical nature of network control room, we aim to design this situation awareness display with strong characteristics of hierarchy. SolarWheels is inspired by the star systems in the galaxy, and the wheels commonly seen in our daily life. We applied the metaphors such as orbiting planets, solar coronas, planetary hierarchies, along with the circular shape and spoke element of wheels. Together the display is able to visualize the states and issues of a large-scale computer network in a straightforward and interactive way.
Visualizing the data
These wheels can grow and shrink while issues are taking place or solved. While the analysts start to interact with them, a wheel can split into sub-wheels hieratically to show the detail information of sub-regions. The expanded children wheels can also collapse back one mother wheel. The following section explains the interaction scenarios in more details.
To interact with a big display, previous researchers have identified three “zones of interaction” (and their respective modes) dependent on the distance and direction from the display: ambient zone, notification zone, and interaction zone , . Referring to the literature, we design three areas for SolarWheels’ viewing possibilities: ambient zone, notification zone, and interactive zone.
According to our design, we introduce intuitive physical interactions with the information display. Proximity sensors and video cameras are mounted around the display to detect the analysts’ distance, focal point, direction from the display, and positions of their hands. Depending on the area of where a analyst is at, she/he can see different levels of details. Multiple users can also work together to check their own interested areas. Certainly the analysts in the control room can also use mouse or other cursors to interact with the graphs in traditional ways.
The right picture is the initial image of six continents.
There are three levels of zones (A/B/C) in the overall interactive zone.