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Electronic Institution for agent-based B2B inter-Operability

Research in the context of this issue aims at developing an Electronic Institution for safe and trustable agent-based business operations. This objective includes the development of appropriate models for B2B Negotiation and Monitoring processes as well as to provide platforms, tools and frameworks enabling Agents’ interoperability in the context of Virtual Enterprises Life Cycle.

Researchers:

Eugénio Oliveira, Francisco Restivo, Ana Paula Rocha, Andreia Malucelli, Henrique L. Cardoso, Andreia Malucelli, Célia Valente, Joana Urbano, P.Leitão (Collab.)

Coordinator:

Eugénio Oliveira

Research direction:

Research in the context of this issue aims at developing an Electronic Institution for safe and trustable agent-based business operations. This objective includes the development of appropriate models for B2B Negotiation and Monitoring processes as well as to provide platforms, tools and frameworks enabling Agents’ interoperability in the context of Virtual Enterprises Life Cycle.

Electronic Institution for agent-based B2B inter-Operability

Research goals:

Our main concern is to define a computational representation of electronic contracts suitable to automatic monitoring procedures executed by an Electronic Institution. An electronic contract includes a set of norms that contractual agents agree upon. Electronic contracts should make it possible to represent Virtual Organization/Enterprise settings, defined in terms of consortiums aggregating the efforts of different organizations.

Recent work (2006):

The Virtual Organization contract definition seeks to take advantage of a normative environment. Contracts have as a ground basis a set of pre-defined norms at an institutional level, which may be applicable to different contract types. A generic contract model was defined that simultaneously: (1) takes advantage of an established normative system, enabling an easy creation of new contracts with little information needed; (2) is expansible, allowing the inclusion of non-predefined information and contractual norms, while keeping its computability. This approach will allow us to apply and validate the system in di?erent business domains. Contracts are represented using an XML schema. Contracts are then translated, together with applicable norms, into a rule engine (Jess) whose responsibility is to monitor them. In Jess, contracts correspond to contexts within which certain norms apply. Each contract indicates the super-context from which it may inherit norms applicable to contracts of its type.


Current and future work:
 
  • Refining the contract creation process, taking into account the negotiation phase that precedes it.
  • Further expand contract monitoring to the shop-floor level, integrating with an inter-organizational workflow monitoring service.
  • Instantiating the generic contract model considering appropriate case-studies.

Electronic Institution Platform

Research goals:

To deliver a web-based Electronic Institution comprising services assisting agents interaction in the Virtual Enterprise life-cycle. More specifically, the Electronic Institution should provide services such as negotiation mediation, ontology mapping, contract drafting, contract monitoring and enforcement, and reputation indexes.

Recent work (2006):
  • The implementation and integration of institutional services is in an advanced stage. These developments are based on a careful architectural design of the Electronic Institution platform (based on JADE).
  • The Electronic Institution’s normative environment, as well as the norm monitoring service, has been detailed and formalized. It is based on the concepts of ”institutional reality” (Searle) and ”institutional power” (Sergot). The contract monitoring service exploits the hierarchical norm organization, based on ”contexts”.
  • Bibliographic research has been conducted concerning the study of trust, reputation and norm learning within institutions.
  • Ontology-based services have been integrated with the Electronic Institution platform.
  • An architecture and interface of an inter-organizational workflow management service has been specified.
  • Current and future work:
  • Specification and description of case-studies appropriate for demonstration is on the way.
  • Future work includes the study and development of partners’ trust and reputation models to be included in the Electronic Institution platform.
  • The study of learning processes for norm evolution is also under consideration.
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