Kevin Dorow on Software & Systems Engineering

Kevin Dorow, PNNL scientist, soccer enthusiast, and dad, shared his work experience at the EMSL auditorium today in a presentation entitled "Implementing Software Architectures To Support Interoperability and Collaboration".  Describing systems engineering is "an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable realization of successful systems", Kevin spoke on how it is applied in his work in software and how it contributes to the portfolio of capabilities at the lab.

Kevin and his team work on a diversity of projects.  The Multi-sensor airborne radiation survey (MARS), is a vehicle-mounted technology for identifying radioactive material at a distance.  Kevin worked to build the software for coordinating third-party technologies and a custom client-server application.  Initially started as just a prototype, the project grew from proof of concept to production protoype. 

Kevin described the MARS project as a simple example of engineering rigor coping with fluid requirements.  When a project scales up, thoughtful software architecture, like pluggable components, makes it easier to fulfill new needs.  He also mentioned that when building systems, one should never confuse complexity and sophistication.

The Active RFID Logistics Tracking Project was Kevin's best case for a holistic approach enabling not only new technology, but novel collaboration.  It's a technology for tracking assets and shipments as they move, kind of like FedEx tracking for battlefield commanders.

When the RFID project wanted to scale out to include more vendors, weaning themselves from a single source of hardware modules, the team utilized System Engineering approaches to abstract software and standardize hardware, enabling other companies to build compliant products.  His team then established an indepdentent certification process within PNNL to verify and validate third-party devices, allowing for standards-based collaboration.

Ultimately, Kevin articulated a means for small research institutions to harness economics of scale: instead of trying to single-handely innovate then manufacture, smaller organizations can innovate then standardize, allowing collaborating organizations to mass-produce products that need to be verified through third-party testing provided by the originating institution.  The holistic approach of systems engineering, not just hardware and not just software, is the foundational capability for that business model.