Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Economics and Information Systems - Faculty of Commerce


Emergency response tasks, both military and civilian, occur in what are termed, 'Extreme Environments' characterised by uncertainty, high stress physical situations, and time sensitive decision-making. Emergency response crews in such environments need to be highly mobile, utilising a variety of advanced wireless technologies to communicate while accomplishing their assignments. It is crucial for the users in the field to be aware of their own situation and the situation in their vicinity to construct their own goals in coping with unpredictable conditions. These are problems identified in the Small Unit Operation (SUO) model used by the military in situations where people and equipment work together to meet some mission objective. These entities may have distinct roles and information needs, and are often geographically distributed. Moreover, other groups of users in the command and control (C2) position need to have an overall and clear picture of the current state of the operation, at the necessary level of detail, in order to make the proper decisions based upon different types of information they receive and their own knowledge. To tackle these issues, users face challenges concerned with the responsible for handling data through volatile wireless network connections and narrow bandwidth conditions. These conditions pose new challenges for all parties of users in terms of situation-awareness, sensemaking, reliable decision making and consequent actions. The aim of this research is to focus on technologies that can help decision makers in two ways: reduce the level of environmental uncertainty, and provide better situation awareness and sensemaking for individuals and teams in extreme environments. These technologies are studied in the light of human sensemaking requirements and the factors contributing to human cognitive states, especially in time critical situations. To achieve this aim, a secondary case study was carried out to identify various user requirements in dynamic environments, and the ways technologies can address those needs. Results show that many new wireless technologies, such as those based on Ultra Wideband (UWB) radio, demonstrate considerable potential for emergency response tasks circumstances. Furthermore, software agents show potential for deployment in emergency tasks to reduce the degree of uncertainty. Software mobile agents also show potential to improve the accuracy and agility of operations along with the ability to deal with the volatile wireless networks. The way decision makers understand their environmental states is vital for the success of emergency response operations. This understanding depends on the human capabilities of interpretation of information, as well as the memory and knowledge of decision makers at the moment the information is received. Thus, human issues need to be understood alongside the advances in technology. The potential contributions of the concept of mobile agents in this area is significant, especially where software mobile agents work as autonomous entities in order to handle the task and local decisions, on behalf of mobile emergency response crews. These findings draw attention to the significant role of software mobile agents working in a meshed wireless network. They could provide an ubiquitous network in an extreme environment. They also have the capability of supporting users' situation awareness, sensemaking and critical decision making, vital in emergency response environments.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.