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Agents, KQML and Knowledge Sharing

March 1997

This file is a list of items added to the UMBC agents pages this month and is in maintained chronological order.
1999: July,
1998: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug,
1997: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec,
1996: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec,
1995: Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.

Mediator Models and Languages

"Mediator Languages -- a Proposal for a Standard" is a report edited by Peter Buneman, Jeff Ullman and Louiqa Raschid on a NSF and DARPA sponsored workshop on Mediator Models and Languages held at the University of Maryland, College Park, in April 1996. 3/31/97

Microsoft's Lumiere Project

The Lumiere project of the Decision Theory & Adaptive Systems Group at Microsoft Research has the goal of developing methods and an architecture for reasoning about the goals and needs of software users as they work with software. At the heart of Lumiere are Bayesian models that capture the uncertain relationships between the goals and needs of a user and observations about program state, sequences of actions over time, and words in a user's query (when such a query has been made). Microsoft Office '97 includes character-based assistants which draw their intelligence from Bayesian user models.

Ontolingua Server

A. Farquhar, R. Fikes, & J. Rice. The Ontolingua Server: A Tool for Collaborative Ontology Construction. Knowledge Systems Laboratory, KSL-96-26, September 1996. Reusable ontologies are becoming increasingly important for tasks such as information integration, knowledge-level interoperation, and knowledge-base development. We have developed a set of tools and services to support the process of achieving consensus on common shared ontologies by geographically distributed groups. These tools make use of the world-wide web to enable wide access and provide users with the ability to pub-lish, browse, create, and edit ontologies stored on an ontology server. Users can quickly assemble a new ontology from a library of modules. We discuss how our system was constructed, how it exploits existing protocols and browsing tools, and our experience supporting hundreds of users. We describe applications using our tools to achieve con-sensus on ontologies and to integrate information. The Ontolingua Server may be accessed through the URL 3/31/97

Information Brokers

R. Fikes, A. Farquhar, & W. Pratt. Information Brokers: Gathering Information from Heterogeneous Information Sources. In John H. Stewman, Ed., Ninth Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Symposium (FLAIRS-96), Key West, Florida, 192-197. Eckerd College, 1996. The Internet provides dramatic new opportunities for gathering information from multiple, distributed, heterogeneous information sources. However, this distributed environment poses difficult technical problems for the information-seeking client, including finding the information sources relevant to an interest, formulating questions in the terms that the sources understand, interpreting the retrieved information, and assembling the information retrieved from several sources into a coherent answer. In this paper, we describe techniques that will enable vendors and buyers to build and maintain network-based information brokers capable of retrieving information about services and products via the Internet from multiple vendor catalogs and data bases for both human and computer-based clients. 3/31/97

FTP Software whitepapers

FTP SOftware has two white papers of interest -- FTP Software Agent Technology, A General Overview. "This paper describes FTP Software Agent Technology and compares it with other agent technology on the market today."; and World-class Push Technology from FTP Software. "This paper presents push technology from FTP Software. FTP Software utilizes autonomous mobile agents within an agent management framework to provide best-of-breed push technology for network computing. This secure, reliable, and scalable approach enables a wide range of tasks to be performed on network clients, without user interaction. The FTP Software push approach can be used to implement remote management, network self-healing, application tuning, and a wide range of other tasks." 3/20/97

Mobile Object Systems

MOBILE OBJECT SYSTEMS, Towards the Programmable Internet, Jan Vitek and Christian Tschudin (Eds.), Second International Workshop, MOS'96, Linz, Austria, July 1996, Springer-Verlag Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1222, Selected Presentations and Invited Papers, ISBN 3-540-62852-5, April, 1997.

"This book presents a collection of papers dealing with different aspects of mobile computations. Mobile computations are computations that are not bound to single locations, but may move at will to best use the computer network's resources. In this view, the network becomes a single, vast, programmable environment. Among computer scientists, many feel that this approach will have a profound effect on the way we design and implement distributed applications, and they agree that we are witnessing a paradigm change. However, this new and exciting paradigm requires advances, both theoretical and applied, in fields such as programming languages (where we need a sound semantic foundation and efficient implementations), operating systems and software safety and security. Some of the first steps towards a programmable Internet are documented here." 3/20/97

Event managers

General event managers are a new class of software systems that share some similarities to agents. In "Secure Business Events on the Internet" (Patricia Seybold's Distributed Computing Monitor, March '97), Mitchell I. Kramer writes:
"Business events integrate applications through a program-to-program interaction model called publish and subscribe . The programs involved in this communication perform either of two roles: publisher or subscriber. A third component brokers the interactions between them. Publishers trigger or recognize business events and signal their occurrence. Subscribers express an interest in business events and are dependent on the occurrence of the business event to be processed. One subscriber or many subscribers may be dependent on the publishing of one business event. And one subscriber may express an interest in many business events. Required for the integration and coordination of publishers and subscribers is the following functionality:
  • Expression of interest in business events (subscribing)
  • Signaling that a business event has occurred (publishing)
  • Monitoring for the occurrence of business events (brokering)
  • Notification of the occurrence of business events to subscribers
In the past year a number of companies have released event-based publish and subscribe systems, including: Ambrosia (Open Horizon), NEON, TUXEDO System EventBroker (BEA), MetaWeb (Dazel), Rendezvous Information Bus (TIBCO), and ActiveWeb (Active Software). How do they compare to systems built using an agent paradigm? Agent communication languages such as KQML are designed to support richer interactions and a wider range of system architectures. 3/20/97

Aspen mimics societal behavior

Aspen mimics societal behavior. Edupage, 16 March 97. "A new economic computer model called Aspen is being hailed by economists as "the best thing that's come along in a long time" for predicting and analyzing macroeconomic data. The program, developed at Sandia National Laboratories, creates a make-believe world comprising up to 10,000 households plus 1,500 factories. By manipulating certain factors, economists can watch the behavior of the agents and use that data for economic forecasting. Aspen's results have turned up some surprises -- during an economic slump, "the firms learned to cooperate," says a Sandia economist. "We didn't put that into the software. But when things stayed sour, the firms got together and helped each other out." The size of Aspen's world is vital: "With thousands of players, you see behavior you wouldn't get in macro models," says the software's creator, who dreams of models with 100,000 agents or more. The software is useful for analyzing the causes of business cycles, both nationally and in specific industries. (Business Week 17 Mar 97)". See Prototype computer program models dynamics of US economy -- Aspen adapts, incorporates randomness of real world for more information. 3/17/97


Filippo Menczer ( ) and Rik Belew have developed Arachnid -- "Adaptive Retrieval Agents Choosing Heuristic Neighborhoods for Information Discovery." Arachnid uses a ecology-inspired artificial life models in which a distributed population of intelligent information agents (infospiders) survives by searching and retrieving documents online, on behalf of the user. Agents can act in a completely autonomous fashion, or interact with the user by relevance feedback. In either case, agents adapt to the information environment at different time scales by learning and evolution. The Arachnid web site has more information about the project, papers, and a QuickTime movie showing the collective infospider behavior. 3/12/97

Special issue on
Agent-based SYstems,
IEE Proceedings on
Software Engineering

Special issue on 'Agent-based Systems', IEE Proceedings on Software Engineering Volume 144, No 1, Jan 1997, ISSN 1364-5080. Contents:
  • Editorial: Developing agent-based systems, Nick Jennings
  • Research and development challenges for agent-based systems, D.T. Ndumu, H.S. Nwana
  • Towards a social level characterisation of socially responsible agents, N.R. Jennings, J.R. Campos
  • Agent-based software engineering, M. Wooldridge
  • Towards agent-based software engineering for information-dependent enterprise applications, S.C. Laufmann
  • Application of multi-agent systems in traffic and transportation, B. Burmeister, A. Haddadi, G. Matylis
  • The agent architecture of the University of Michigan Digital Library, E.H. Durfee, D.L. Kiskis, W.P. Birmingham
  • Cooperative information-gathering: a distributed problem-solving approach, T. Oates, M.V. Nagendra Prasad, V.R. Lesser

Software Agents & Soft Computing

Software Agents & Soft Computing: Concepts and Applications, by Hyacinth S. Nwana & Nader Azarmi (Eds), Published in January 1997 by Springer-Verlag as Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence Volume 1198, 298 pages. Includes index. ISBN: 3-540-62560-7. Softback. Contents:
  • Section 1: Software Agents - Concepts. An Introduction to Agent Technology (Hyacinth S. Nwana & Divine T. Ndumu), Artificial Societies and Psychological Agents (Stuart N. Watt), Coordination in Multi-Agent Systems (Hyacinth S. Nwana, Lyndon C. Lee & Nick R. Jennings), Software Agent Technologies (Hyacinth S. Nwana & Mike Wooldridge).
  • Section 2: Software Agents - Applications.Information Agents for the World Wide Web (John N. Davies, Richard Weeks & Mike Revett), Multi-Agent Matchmaking (Lenny Foner & Barry Crabtree), An Application of Social Filtering to Movie Recommendation (Donald Fisk), Agents of Change for Business Process Management (Paul O'Brien & Mark Wiegand), Agents, Mobility and Multimedia Information (Richard Titmuss, Barry Crabtree & Chris Winter), A Real-life Experiment in Creating an Agent Market Place (Anthony Chavez, D. Dreilinger, R. Guttman and Pattie Maes).
  • Section 3: Soft Computing - Concepts and Applications. The Roles of Fuzzy Logic and Soft Computing in the Conception, Design and Deployment of Intelligent Systems (Lotfi A. Zadeh), An Introduction to Soft Computing: A Tool for Building Intelligent Systems (Ben Azvine, Nader Azarmi & K. C. Tsui), Basic Concepts of a Fuzzy Logic Data Browser with Applications (Jim Baldwin & T. P. Martin), Towards Soft Computing (E. H. Mamdani).
  • Section 4: Machine Intelligence. The Rise of Machine Intelligence (Hyacinth S. Nwana, Nader Azarmi & Robin Smith), Intelligent Software Systems (Robin Smith and E. H. Mamdani), Machine Intelligibility and the Duality Principle (Steve Muggleton & Donald Michie).

Firefly Passports

Firefly Network, Inc. has announced an open client/server platform to allow other applications to use their collaborative filtering technology. Firefly says that using its software tools, "businesses can register, recognize and manage end-user profiles; create personalized communities on-line; deliver personalized content to end-users; serve highly targeted advertisements; incorporate compelling chat capabilities; and more accurately measure and report on end-user activity." Firefly's approach is based on "a trusted profile management architecture which makes possible the exchange of information, both business to business and between businesses and end-users. When end-users register at any Firefly-enabled site or application they receive a Firefly Passport, which serves as their mobile profile." For more information, see the Firefly press release and an article from Inter@ctive. 3/10/97

Proposed FIPA ACL

Yannis Labrou and Tim Finin offer some comments on the current draft specification for FIPA '97 Agent Communication Language. 3/10/97

Open Intelligent Agent Platforms and Protocols

The Agent Society held a design workshop on Open Intelligent Agent Platforms and Protocols at the first meeting of the "Agent Interop Working Group" just after the Agents'97 conference. A second meeting will be held just after the PAAM'97 conference in London, 24-25 Apr 1997. For more information send email to, or phone its temporary Secretariat at +1 408.774.6950. 3/10/97

Mobile Object Systems: Towards the Programmable Internet

Mobile Object Systems: Towards the Programmable Internet, Christian Tschudin Eds., Second International Workshop, MOS'96, Linz, Austria, July 1996, Selected Presentations and Invited Papers, Springer-Verlag, LNCS 1222, April 1997. "This book presents a collection of papers dealing with different aspects of mobile computations. Mobile computations are computations that are not bound to single locations, but may move at will to best use the computer network's resources. In this view, the network becomes a single, vast, programmable environment. Among computer scientists, many feel that this approach will have a profound effect on the way we design and implement distributed applications, and they agree that we are witnessing a paradigm change. However, this new and exciting paradigm requires advances, both theoretical and applied, in fields such as programming languages (where we need a sound semantic foundation and efficient implementations), operating systems and software safety and security. Some of the first steps towards a programmable Internet are documented here." 3/10/97

IJAI special issue on Intelligent Adaptive Agents

Ibrahim Fahmi Imam ( is editing a special issue of The International Journal of Applied Intelligence on Intelligent Adaptive Agents. Submit a a title and abstract together with contact information, and key words by March 15 and a full copy by April 10. 3/10/97

IEEE Internet computing special issue on Agents

A special issue of IEEE Internet Computing on Agents is being edited by Munindar Singh ( and Michael Huhns ( The issue seeks papers which address
"What kinds of agents are performing useful work on the Internet? Papers should clearly define both the applications and technologies being used as well as the sense of "agent." Applications should be demonstrable. Issues include security, mobility, and agent communication languages. Claims about the efficacy of one approach or language should be supported by examples from applications."
The deadline for this issue is March 15, 1997. 3/10/97

JKP, the Java Kif Parser

Xiaocheng Luan ( has developed JKP, a Java Kif Parser, which can parse ascii strings representing sentences in a subset of KIF into Java objects which encode the logical structure and are ready for further manipulation. 3/10/97

Mobile Code Bibliography

Jeremy Hylton ( has developed a mobile code bibliography which currently includes 78 entries mobile code, mobile agents, and related systems. It is available in three forms: with abstracts, without abstracts and as BibTeX source. The citations focus on system support for mobile agents, code mobility (i.e., code is shipped between nodes), safety and security for mobile code, and and active networks (i.e., packets contain code executed at routers.) Jeremy would like to receive corrections and appropriate contributions (in Bibtex) by email using "mobile code bibliography" as the subject. 3/7/97

20 retrieval agents

Netscape world has a table of links to over 20 "retreival agents" which can be downloaded. They include:
Agentware (Autonomy) ; AnchorPage (Iconovex) ; AppControl (Seagate Software) ; EchoSearch (Iconovex) ; Freeloader (Individual) ; Headliner (Lanacom) ; Hotbot (Inktomi) ; MagnetSearch (CompassWare Development) ; Net Attache (Tympani Development) ; Netriever 2.0 (Metz Software) ; Personalized Commerce Agents (Personal) ; SEARCH'97 Information Server (Verity); SEARCH'97 Personal for Microsoft Exchange (Verity); SEARCH'97 Personal (Verity) ; SearchPDF for Web Servers (Verity) ; Secret Agent (Arial Communications); Smart Bookmarks 3.0 Beta 2 (FirstFloor) ; SmartSearch (Xilinx) ; Surfbot (SurfLogic) ; Web Retriever 2.1 (Folio) ; WebAnchor (Iconovex); WebCompass (Quarterdeck) ; Zooworks (Hitachi Software) ;

Netscape's Orion to feature agents

Netscape has announced that a forthcoming version of its SuiteSpot server suite will include "will include agent creation and management tools that will help track and administer applets running on Web clients or servers.". A Netscapeworld article says...
"Other modular upgrades for the next version of SuiteSpot, which is code-named Orion, are also scheduled for a staggered rollout during the next 12 months. The company's intranet white paper repeatedly refers to agents and agent management as critical future technologies for the entire SuiteSpot line.

Although Netscape officials would not discuss specific details of the applet-management-agent feature set, the agent technology is expected to highlight the next SuiteSpot release.

"Watch for a number of things in the 3.0 Version of Enterprise Server," said Marc Andreessen, Netscape's chief technology officer. "There will be agent creation for all of the services so that information can be pushed instead of pulled." This means one of the first places this agent technology will surface is in Netscape's e-mail servers, which will make use of agents to automatically perform certain functions and route processes in workflow applications.
The use of agents to manage applets on the network could solve a number of problems, said Rob Enderle, an industry analyst for Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, CA.

"With agents, you could restrict the type of applets you collect into some sort of repository of trusted applets," Enderle said.

Agents that provide centralized management of Java applets or plug-ins have yet to be deployed. One vendor pursuing this is Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., in Austin, TX, which also is developing agents for managing Java applets."


Simulated Social Control for Secure Internet Commerce

Simulated Social Control for Secure Internet Commerce, Lars Rasmusson Sverker Jansson, Swedish Institute of Computer Science, 1 April, 1996. ABstract: In this paper we suggest that soft security such as social control has to be used to create secure open systems. Social control means that it is the participants themselves who are responsible for the security, as opposed to leaving the security to some external or global authority. Social mechanisms don't deny the existence of malicious participants. Instead they are aiming at avoiding interaction with them. This makes them more robust than hard security mechanisms such as passwords, who reveal everything if they are bypassed. We describe our work in progress of constructing a workbench to run simulations of electronic markets. By examining the success of different security mechanisms to avoid maliciously behaving actors we hope to gain insight into how to create electronic markets. The idea of creating reputations for the participants is discussed. Finally some legal aspects on using social control and reputation as security mechanisms are discussed. 3/5/97


iAgent is an information retrieval product developed by the Information Technology Institute in Singapore. It features a multi-lingual IR engine, and various agent-oriented features. 3/4/97

Mobile Agents in Java

Danny Lange and Mitsuru Oshima of IBM Research are working on a book "Mobile Agents in Java - With the Java Aglet API". An outline and draft of the initial chapters are available on the wev. Planned chapters include: 1. Preface; 2. Elements of the Java Aglet API; 3. Anatomy of an Aglet; 4 .Aglet Context; 5. Working With the Proxy; 6. Aglet Messaging; 7. Trip Planning with the Itinerary; 8. Aglet Usage Patterns; and 9. Aglet Security as well as appendices 1. Examples and 2. The Java Aglet API. 3/3/97

AgentWeb is maintained at the UMBC Lab for Advanced Information Technology by Tim Finin (