Innodata Isogen Helps Defense Contractor Develop More Nimble IETMs
An Army defense contractor faced a major challenge in updating its Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs). The IETMs were first introduced as an offshoot of the “paperless ship” concept in the late 1970s. Since then, many content management systems had come and gone. Many systems were no longer supported, which made updating sections in the manuals difficult and limited the ways the data could be presented.
Hardware had similarly evolved. Early IETMs ran on the fairly primitive computer systems of the 1970s and 1980s, which constrained their software and output capabilities. The old systems could not take advantage of interactive graphics and audio/visual information, nor could they be printed or viewed on modern hardware.
Software and hardware limitations complicated the exchange of data between the contractor and its customers, so the contractor required that the document-to-document system be compatible with others and adapt easily to today’s publishing environment.
The contractor called on Innodata Isogen to analyze the content and its multiple links, and then to design a custom authoring system and integrate the earlier data with a modern off-the-shelf platform. This would allow the contractor to take advantage of current market capabilities for the bulk of the needed functionality and minimize the custom development. It also would reduce the time and effort needed to swap applications and update them as needed.
The company also required that the publishing environment provide for structured authoring, so the bulk of complex tagging structures could be inserted automatically. Collaborative authoring and review were considered as key elements of the project. Other essential features were annotation and version management, illustrating, role and workflow notification, automated routing, search and query, linking, as well as security and access controls.
Innodata Isogen chose HyTime as a standard to support the linking because it could handle data sets projected to encompass as many as one million links. Unlike XML-based linking tools, HyTime can address non-SGML/XML data below the file level. Document-to-document specifications had been based on two different military guidelines, one providing a generic content layer for the training manuals, while the other provided a more traditional army-like structure for them. Standards were established to ease transfer between the military guidelines, with the architecture based on the traditional one to maintain the army-like structure.
Although the IETMs initially were developed in five distinct parts, Innodata Isogen streamlined the system to three: the data set, the manual software and the display capability. The data set included text and graphic content in the traditional manual – which was expanded to allow for audio and visual files – and processing instructions for the electronic manual and its system software. The manual software provided the processing capabilities to use the manual in both onboard and off-board settings to allow for operation and maintenance modes. The display capability allowed the material to be viewed on a computer screen or to be printed.
With its expertise at using off-the-shelf content management and linking systems to integrate data, Innodata Isogen implemented the changes in less than three months, minimizing the impact of the project on the contractor’s business.
The solution enables the client to update IETMS relatively easily. No longer mere images of documents dating to the 1970s, they present interactive audio and visual material that clarifies training information and is easier to grasp by a generation that grew up with Nintendos, Playstations and other computer-based games. And standardizing the platform eases the exchange of data between the contractor, related suppliers and the army.
With the system in place, the defense contractor can easily develop IETMs for new projects and ensure that they remain current with the latest developments in software and computer technology.