The University of Southampton

Little book addresses some of our biggest systems

Published: 
13 March 2006
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An unusual booklet published this month by one of the UK's leading computer scientists aims to highlight the development of agent-based computing and to illustrate the wide reach of this exciting technology in our everyday lives.

Agents are autonomous problem-solving software systems that respond effectively to changing dynamic environments, and agent technologies already impact on our life and work -- from our household appliances and transport systems, to the operations of companies which provide many of our goods and services.

50 Facts about Agent-Based Computing, produced by Professor Michael Luck of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, presents a high-impact snapshot of how agent-based computing has already transformed processes like automated market trading, logistics, and industrial robotics.

‘Agent-based systems are a basic building block of some of the most compelling developments in IT today, and are already having real commercial impact,’ says Professor Luck, Executive Director of the EU-funded AgentLink programme and co-ordinating editor of its Roadmapping activity.

The booklet features companies and organizations which have successfully implemented agent technologies in their operations, including DaimlerChrysler, Whitestein Technologies, IBM, and the UK Ministry of Defence. Many of the 50 Facts demonstrate that agent technologies can outperform human operators, enable companies to make significant cost savings, and to manage complex processes more efficiently.

For example: autonomous market trading agents already outperform human commodity traders by 7 per cent, and DaimlerChrysler experienced a 20 per cent increase in productivity by using agent-based systems to direct individual workpieces in one of its production areas.

AgentLink, an influential project in the EU Information Society Technologies programme, promotes the adoption of agent technologies across the continent, raising awareness, supporting teaching and training, and liaising with industry. The AgentLink III Roadmap is a strategic document intended to guide the direction of agent-based computing over the next decade.

‘Agent-based computing is here to stay and its use is likely to multiply in the future’ says Professor Luck. ‘But the growing complexity of the interactions in emerging distributed systems means that we need to introduce new dynamic techniques to provide more flexible mediation and management. This is our next challenge. Building control into systems is hard enough, but some of the systems being developed now will have properties that we can’t envisage at the moment. And we don’t want to preclude the very great potential benefits of these new systems by introducing traditional controls that are too rigid.’

50 Facts about Agent-Based Computing is now being distributed widely throughout the business and academic research community in order to promote awareness of agent-based technology and to highlight its applications.

‘Agent technologies that are flexible and effective will help us ensure the maximum success and interoperability of the next generation interactive computing environments,’ says Michael Luck. ‘This little book provides an indication of the extent to which we are already reliant on the technology.’

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