Intelligent Agents

By Anand Kumar


Intelligent Software Agents: An Overview
  

Intelligent Agent (IA): Computer program that helps a user with routine computer tasks New Technology Other Names
     

Software agents Wizards Knowbots Intelligent software robots Softbots Bots

Agent: Employing someone to act on your behalf


Definitions of Intelligent Agent

“Intelligent agents are software entities that carry out some set of operations on behalf of a user or another program, with some degree of independence or autonomy and in so doing, employ some knowledge or representation of the user’s goals or desires.” (“The IBM Agent”) An agent is anything that can be viewed as perceiving its environment through sensors and acting upon that environment through effectors (Russell and Norvig, 1995, p. 33) Autonomous agents are computational systems that inhabit some complex dynamic environment, sense and act autonomously in this environment and by doing so realize a set of goals or tasks for which they are designed (Maes, 1995, p. 108)


More Definitions

A persistent software entity dedicated to a specific purpose. “Persistent” distinguishes agents from subroutines; agents have their own ideas about how to accomplish tasks, e.g., their own agenda. “Special purpose” distinguishes them from entire multifunction applications; agents are typically much smaller” (Smith et al., 1994) Intelligent agents continuously perform three functions: perception of dynamic conditions in the environment; action to affect conditions in the environment; and reasoning to interpret perceptions, solve problems, draw inferences and determine actions (Hayes-Roth, 1995)



Little bit history.
 

Mid 50’s first ideas about software agents.
• John McCarthy, Oliver G. Selfridge.

Research on software agents can be split into two main strands:
 

first one about mid 70’s and second one at the beginning of 90’s. distributed artificial intelligence, robotics, artificial life, distributed object computing, human-computer interaction, intelligent and adaptive interfaces, intelligent search and filtering, information retrieval, etc.

Today software agents are still a hot, diverse topic.




Many definitions:

"Let us define an agent as a persistent software entity dedicated to a specific purpose. 'Persistent' distinguishes agents from subroutines; agents have their own ideas about how to accomplish tasks, their own agendas. 'Special purpose' distinguishes them from entire multifunction applications; agents are typically much smaller."

An autonomous agent is a system situated within and a part of an environment that senses that environment and acts on it, over time, in pursuit of its own agenda and so as to effect what it senses in the future.


Categories of agents

(just one of them)

Autonomous Agents
Biological Agents Computational Agents Robotic Agents

Software Agents

Artificial Life Agents

Task-specific Agents Entertainment Agents Viruses

Types of Software Agents
 Static

(Computer Bound)

Stationary agents do not roam around the online world but use embedded knowledge to assist in filtering and processing the volume of incoming information. Agent becomes dormant until the next event arri Execute commands while living on a remote server, reporting back to home page when given task is accomplished Carry out transactions without further input from the consumer .

 Mobile

Why Software Agents
 Managing

the information overload  Decision support  Repetitive office activity  Mundane personal activity  Search and retreival  Domain experts


Properties of mobile software agents
 Programming  Safety  Resource

usage  Navigation  Privacy  Communication


General characteristics of Software Agents
 Independent

Agency  Agent learning  Agent cooperation  Agent reasoning capability
 Rule

based approach  Knowledge based approach  Learning approach
 Agent


Technology behind Software Agents
 Components

of a software agent

Owner  Author  Lifetime  Account  Goal  Subject description  Background

Technology behind Software Agents
 Components

of the agent computing

 User

preferences  Knowledge of what is where  Cost, resources and time constraints  Task, process or domain knowledge


Technology behind Software Agents
 Telescript

Agent Language  SAFE-TCL (Tool Command Language)


Software agents in action
 Software


Customer service help desk

 Event


System and Network Management

 Work-flow
  

assistants and Smart Messaging  Software Agents and Resource Discovery
Scale of problem Need for cooperative brokerages Need for resource planning

Why Intelligent Agents?
Information Overload

Data doubles annually (in large enterprises (1998))
  

Can analyze only about 5% Most efforts: discover patterns, not meaning, not what to do Reduces decision making capabilities by 50%

Much caused by the Internet / Web
 

How to filter data? How to identify relevant sources of data?

Intelligent agents can assist searching Save time: agents decide what is relevant to the user


Internet-based Software Agents
Software Robots or Softbots

Major Categories
     

E-mail agents (mailbots) Web browsing assisting agents Frequently asked questions (FAQ) agents Intelligent search (or Indexing) agents Internet softbot for finding information Network Management and Monitoring


Network Management and Monitoring
      

Patrol Application Management Tabriz WatchGuard AlertView InterAp Mercury Center’s Newshound Infosage


Electronic Commerce Agents
     

Need identification Product brokering Merchant brokering Negotiation Purchase and delivery Product/service evaluation


Other Agents
 Operating

systems agents  Supply chain management agents  Spreadsheet agents  Workflow and administrative management agents  Competitive intelligence agents  Software development agents  Data mining / Web mining agents  Monitoring and alerting agents  Collaboration agents

Operating Systems Agents
        

Wizards in Microsoft Windows NT Operating Systems Add user accounts Group management Managing file and folder access Add printer Add/remove programs Network client administrator Licenses Install new modems Spreadsheet agents: make software more friendly


Workflow and Administrative Management Agents

Ascertain and automate user needs or business processes

Example - FlowMark

Software development

Many routine tasks can be done or supported by agents


A Multiagent System for Travel Arrangements
Buyer Sellers
Car Rental Companies

Car Rental Agents




Airline Agents


Hotel Agents


Managerial Issues
          

Cost Justification Security Privacy Industrial Intelligence and Ethics Other Ethical Issues Agent Learning Agent Accuracy Heightened Expectations System Acceptance System Technology Strategic Information Systems



Agents can simplify our use of computers Agents can provide friendly software assistance Agents promise to hide complexity Agents perform actions we do not do ourselves Agents could enhance human intelligence Agents provide support to Net users in handling the information overload problem


But: Danger!

Agents are unlike other technological advances Agents have some level of intelligence, some form of
 

Self-initiated and Self-determined goals

There is the potential for
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Social mischief Systems that run amok Loss of privacy Further alienation of society


Can Eliminate Such Problems

Develop rules for well-behaving agents Determine the accuracy of information collected Respect restrictions of other servers Do only authorized work


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