, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 203-252

A Manifesto for Agent Technology: Towards Next Generation Computing

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Abstract

The European Commission's eEurope initiative aims to bring every citizen, home, school, business and administration online to create a digitally literate Europe. The value lies not in the objective itself, but in its ability to facilitate the advance of Europe into new ways of living and working. Just as in the first literacy revolution, our lives will change in ways never imagined. The vision of eEurope is underpinned by a technological infrastructure that is now taken for granted. Yet it provides us with the ability to pioneer radical new ways of doing business, of undertaking science, and, of managing our everyday activities. Key to this step change is the development of appropriate mechanisms to automate and improve existing tasks, to anticipate desired actions on our behalf (as human users) and to undertake them, while at the same time enabling us to stay involved and retain as much control as required. For many, these mechanisms are now being realised by agent technologies, which are already providing dramatic and sustained benefits in several business and industry domains, including B2B exchanges, supply chain management, car manufacturing, and so on. While there are many real successes of agent technologies to report, there is still much to be done in research and development for the full benefits to be achieved. This is especially true in the context of environments of pervasive computing devices that are envisaged in coming years. This paper describes the current state-of-the-art of agent technologies and identifies trends and challenges that will need to be addressed over the next 10 years to progress the field and realise the benefits. It offers a roadmap that is the result of discussions among participants from over 150 organisations including universities, research institutions, large multinational corporations and smaller IT start-up companies. The roadmap identifies successes and challenges, and points to future possibilities and demands; agent technologies are fundamental to the realisation of next generation computing.