An endless stream of new technology may not necessarily be good news for operators and decision makers. Halogen specialises in prioritising information, reducing noise and cleaning up the data to create the ultimate situational awareness.
– Our most important job is to make sure that the operator does not drown in information
Operators in critical operations have to process large amounts of information, often under strong pressure. Digitalisation makes access to infinite data too easy, which can make it difficult for an operator to make decisions, quickly and precisely.
“At Halogen, our goal is always to create the ultimate situational awareness in critical operations. Whether operating from a submarine, in an air defense system or remotely controlling an operation from a bunker, it is about having the right information at the right time - not too little, not too much, not too early and not too late. Our goal is always the ultimate situational understanding” Simen Tronrud explains.
Tronrud is a former submarine officer and worked at Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace (KDA) for ten years before joining Halogen as a consultant in 2020.
Halogen is a leader in Norway within the field of design for safety-critical environments, such as defense, offshore energy production and aviation. It is about building bridges between technology and users, and understanding how individual operations fit within a bigger picture.
“We design the physical environments and interfaces which the operators use in their work. But we also develop holistic operating philosophies and concepts which include entire workflows, from front line operations to decision support at the strategic level.”
Designing for operators who are not yet born
Together with KDA, FFI and the Submarine Service, Halogen has developed the concept for the control room on the new submarines of the type 212CD which are being built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. The work requires both clients and designers to think in a completely new way.
“Many of the operators we design solutions for haven’t even been born yet! To imagine what their needs will be, we use expertise from human factors and human/machine interaction. We seek to uncover what isn’t going to change and to take into account what we don’t even know that we don’t know. For example, neither humans nor the ocean will behave very differently in 30 years. But at the same time the technology and the digital possibilities will probably be radically different from today” Tronrud explains.
Human-centered design is about developing solutions based on what people are best at, and what technology might help us become even better at.
"The best feedback we received was from a training officer telling us that the new solution made her job 100 times easier."Designer, Halogen
Reduced training time by more than 50 percent
One of the most important gains from developing control rooms and interfaces based on the operators’ needs, is that the finished products are intuitive to the users. In addition to mitigating the risk of human error, this also reduces the need for training significantly. This is highly valuable for The Armed Forces, where new operators are trained continuously.
“When we developed the new version of the Air Defence Console together with KDA, we started from scratch; literally with clean sheets of paper. No technology, no existing solutions, just open communication about the operators’ needs to execute their jobs the best possible way" says Bojana Petkov, civil engineer and designer at Halogen.
In a cross-disciplinary team, with psychologists, engineers and designers, the team step by step worked their way towards a brand new concept – shoulder to shoulder with the operators the whole time. The method was fruitful, Petkov says:
“In the finished solution, the information is prioritised and placed where the operator needs it to be. The work surfaces are customised to their workflow. The best feedback we received was from a training officer telling us that the new solution made her job 100 times easier.”
The operators understand the system quickly, and can operate it independently within a short period of time. This is important, because many of them are only engaged for one or two years, or even shorter periods of time in connection with training operations.
“Halogen’s expertise complements our own. The collaboration allows us to cover our clients’ needs ever better in the future”Director Sales and Business Development, Thales Norway
User understanding for secure communications
Thales Norway creates secure communications and crypto solutions for The Armed Forces and The Norwegian Government. Halogen supports the company with user centric communications and product development. In practice, this means understanding the users’ needs and translating this understanding to solutions with high utility value.
“Our ambition is to deliver secure communication and crypto solutions that have the highest possible operational effect to The Armed Forces and our international clients, for example NATO” says Stian Kjensberg, Director Sales and Business Development with Thales Norway.
To achieve this ambition, Thales Norway has established a strategic collaboration with Halogen.
“Halogen’s expertise complements our own. The collaboration allows us to cover our clients’ needs ever better in the future” states Kjensberg.
Digital tools can never measure up to human skills
Digital development happens at an enormous pace. We already have autonomous aircrafts, ships and buses in traffic today, and we’ll have more and more self-driving units among us in the years to come. This is not problem free, according to Simen Tronrud.
“The more advanced technology we have on our hands, the more important it is to understand the human’s role in the loop. Our most important job is to make sure that the operator doesn’t drown in information. We need to make the available data into a clear picture of the situation and a good foundation for making the right solutions” he explains.
According to Tronrud, digital technology will never measure up to human’s finely calibrated abilities to consider a complex situation with many unknown factors and ethically difficult problem areas. On the other hand, humans will never measure up to computers’ calculating power and ability to analyse enormous data sets. The key is to utilise the best of both worlds.
“We need to build more intuitive solutions that give better overview and limit cognitive strain, pulling on the strengths of both people and technology'' he says.
Tronrud has seen many examples of good operators compensating for bad systems. It should really be the other way around, he thinks:
“We need to get the human/machine equation right, so that we use digital technology to make people even better at their jobs. Our goal is that they should spend less time struggling with difficult systems, and more time and energy on what they’re supposed to do, which is making good decisions in difficult situations. At the end of the day, it’s all about structuring information and creating good situational understanding covering the operators’ needs.