Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 31–47 | Cite as

Mechanisms for environments in multi-agent systems: Survey and opportunities

  • Eric PlatonEmail author
  • Marco Mamei
  • Nicolas Sabouret
  • Shinichi Honiden
  • H. Van Dyke Parunak


The environment has been recognized as an explicit and exploitable element to design multi-agent systems (MAS). It can be assigned a number of responsibilities that would be more difficult to design with the sole notion of agents. To support the engineering of these responsibilities, we identify a set of mechanisms that offer solutions to software designers. We describe the mechanisms, their usage in representative projects, and potential opportunities for further research and applications. The purpose of this article is to clarify the notion of environment in terms of mechanisms, from their abstract description to their practical exploitation. Mechanisms are expected to provide agent-based software designers with a set of design elements to build MAS that take advantage of the environment.


Environment Mechanism Multi-agent systems Agent-oriented software engineering 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Agilla. Accessed in March (2006). Agilla, A Mobile Agent Middleware for Wireless Sensor Networks. Scholar
  2. 2.
    Balbo, F., & Pinson, S. (2001). Toward a multi-agent modelling approach for urban public transportation systems. In Engineering societies in the agents world II. Prague. Czech Republic: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bandini S., Manzoni, S., & Vizzari, G. (2005). Web sites as agents’ environments: general framework and applications. In Weyns et al. [62], Springer.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bonabeau, E., Dorigo, M., & Theraulaz, G. (1999). Swarm intelligence. From natural to artificial systems. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brueckner S. (2000). Return from the ant—synthetic ecosystems for manufacturing control. Ph.D. thesis, Humboldt University, Berlin, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Busetta, P., Donà, A., & Nori, M. (2002). Channelled multicast for group communications. In Autonomous agents & multiagent systems (pp. 1280–1287). ACM.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cabri G., Leonardi L., Zambonelli F. (2002). Engineering mobile agent applications via context-dependent coordination. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 28(11): 1040–1056CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Carzaniga A., Rosenblum D., Wolf A. (2001). Design and evaluation of a wide-area event notification service. ACM Transactions on Computer Systems 19(3): 332–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cassel, J., Sullivan, J., Prevost, S., & Churchill, E. (2000). Embodied conversational agents. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chavez, A., & Maes, P. (1996). Kasbah: An agent marketplace for buying and selling goods. In International conference on the practical application of intelligent agents and multi-agent technology.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cugola G., Fuggetta A., Nitto E.D. (2001). The JEDI event-based infrastructure and its application to the development of the OPSS WFMS. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 27(9): 827–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Decker K.S. (1995). Environment centered analysis and design of coordination mechanisms. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USAGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Demazeau, Y. (1995). From interactions to collective behaviour in agent-based systems. In European conference on cognitive sciences.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dignum, F., Kraus, S., Singh, M. (Eds.) (2005). Fourth international joint conference on autonomous agents & multiagent systems, July 25–29, (2005). Utrecht, The Netherlands. ACM.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Drogoul, A., & Ferber, J. (1992). Multi-agent simulation as a tool for modeling societies: application to social differentiation in ant colonies. In Castelfranchi, C., & Werner, E. (Eds.). MAAMAW, Vol. 830 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, (pp. 3–23). Springer.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Esteva, M., Rosell, B., Rodríguez-Aguilar, J.A., & Arcos, J.L. (2004). AMELI: An agent-based middleware for electronic institutions. In Third international joint conference on autonomous agents & multiagent systems. (pp. 236–243). IEEE Computer Society.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Eugster P., Felber P., Guerraoui R., Kermarrec A. (2003). The many faces of Publish/Subscribe. ACM Computing Surveys 35(2): 114–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Eymann, T., Padovan, B., & Schoder, D. (1998). Simulating value chain coordination with artificial life agents. In International conference on multi-agent systems. (pp. 423–424) IEEE Computer Society.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ferber, J. (1999). Multi-agent systems: An introduction to distributed artificial intelligence. Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ferber, J., & Müller, J.-P. (1996). Influences and reaction: A model of situated multiagent systems. In Second international conference on multi-agent systems. AAAI.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Freeman, E., Hupfer, S., & Arnold, K. (1999). JavaSpaces principles, patterns, and practice. Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gamma, E., Helm, R., Johnson, R., & Vlissides, J. (1999). Design patterns. Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gelernter D., Carriero N. (1992). Coordination languages and their significance. Communication of the ACM 35(2): 96–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Guyot, P., Drogoul, A., & Honiden, S. (2006). Power and negotiation: lessons from agent-based participatory simulations. In Autonomous agents & multiagent systems (pp. 27–33). ACM.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Guyot, P., Drogoul, A., & Lemaître, C. (2005). Using emergence in participatory simulations to design multi-agent systems. In Dignum et al. (pp. 199–203) ACM.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hales D., Edmonds B. (2005). Applying a socially-inspired technique (tags) to improve cooperation in P2P Networks. IEEE transactions in systems, Man and Cybernetics—Part A: Systems and Humans 35(3): 385–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Helleboogh, A., Vizzari, G., & Michel, F. (2006). Multi-agent modeling and simulation: the role of the environment. In Sycara and Wooldridge [53].Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ishida T. (2002). Q: A Scenario description language for interactive agents. IEEE Computer 35(11): 42–47MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Johanson, B., & Fox, A. (2002). The event heap: A coordination infrastructure for interactive workspaces. In Proceedings of the workshop on mobile computer systems and applications. Callicoon, New York, USA: IEEE CS Press.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Kakas, A. C., Mancarella, P., Sadri, F., Stathis, K., & Toni, F. (2004). The KGP model of agency. In R.L. de Mántaras, & Saitta, L. (Eds.) European conference on artificial intelligence (pp. 33–37), IOS.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Karacapilidis, N. I., & Moraitis, P. (2001). Intelligent agents for an artificial market system. In agents (pp. 592–599).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    MABS: (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004). Multi-agent systems and agent-based simulation, international workshop series, Vol. 1534, 1979, 2581, 2927, 3415 of LNCS. Springer.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Mamei, M., & Zambonelli, F. (2004a). Motion coordination in the quake 3 Arena environment: A field-based approach. In Weyns et al. (pp. 264–278) Springer.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Mamei, M., & Zambonelli, F. (2004b). Programming pervasive and mobile computing applications with the TOTA middleware. In proceedings of the international conference on pervasive computing (Percom). Orlando, Florida, USA: IEEE CS Press.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Mamei M., Zambonelli F., Leonardi L. (2004). Co-fields: A physically inspired approach to distributed motion coordination. IEEE Pervasive Computing 3(2): 52–61Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Menezes, R., & Tolksdorf, R. (2003). A new approach to scalable Linda-systems based on Swarms. In Proceedings of the symposium on applied computer. Orlando, Florida, USA: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    O’Hare G.M.P., Reddy M. (1991). Blackboard systems: A survey of their application. Artificial Intelligence Review 5(3): 169–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Omicini, A., & Zambonelli, F. (1998). TuCSoN: A Coordination model for mobile information agents. In D. G. Schwartz, M. Divitini, & T. Brasethvik (Eds.), First international workshop on innovative internet information systems. Pisa, Italy, (pp. 177–187), IDI – NTNU, Trondheim (Norway).Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Parunak H.V.D. (1997). Go to the Ant: Engineering principles from natural multi-agent systems. Annals of Operation Research 75: 69–101zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Parunak, H. V. D. (2005). Expert assessment of human–human stigmergy. Analysis for the Canadian defence organization, Altarum Institute, Ann Arbor, Michigan.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Parunak, H. V. D., Brueckner, S., & Sauter, J. A. (2004). Digital pheromones for coordination of unmanned vehicles. In Weyns et al. [61], (pp. 246–263), Springer.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Platon, E. (2006). Smart environment for smarter agents in E-markets. In 19th conference of the Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society, (pp. 176–177).Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Platon, E., Sabouret, N., & Honiden, S. (2005a). Environment support for oversensing. In M.-P. Gleizes, G. A. Kaminka, & S. Ossowski (Eds.), Proceedings of the European workshop on multi-agent systems 2005.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Platon, E., Sabouret, N., & Honiden, S. (2005b). Overhearing and direct interactions: Point of view of an active environment, a preliminary study. In Weyns et al. [62], Springer.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ratnasamy, S., & Karp, B. (2002). GHT: A geographic Hash table for data-centric storage. In Proceedings of the international workshop on wireless sensor networks and applications. Atlanta, Georgia, USA: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ratnasamy, S., Francis, P., Handley, M., & Karp, R. (2001). A scalable content-addressable network. In Proceedings of the SIGCOMM conference. San Diego, California, USA: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    RFID standard: Accessed in March (2006). RFID on Wikipedia. Scholar
  48. 48.
    Rowstron, A., & Druschel, P. (2001). Pastry: Scalable, decentralized object location and routing for large-scale peer-to-peer systems. In Proceedings of the conference on distributed systems platforms. Heidelberg, Germany: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Russell, S., & Norvig, P. (2003). it Artificial intelligence: A modern approach. Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Sichman, J.S., Conte, R., Castelfranchi, C., & Demazeau, Y. (1994). A social reasoning mechanism based on dependence networks. In European conference on artificial intelligence, (pp. 188–192).Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Susi T., Ziemke T. (2002). Social cognition, artefacts, and stigmergy: A comparative analysis of theoretical frameworks for the understanding of artefact-mediated collaborative activity. Cognitive Systems Research 2(4): 273–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Sycara, K., & Wooldridge, M. (Eds.) (2006). Autonomous agents and multi-agent systems: Special issue on environment for multi-agent systems. Springer.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Tsvetovatyy M., Gini M., Mobasher Z., Wieckowski B. (1997). MAGMA: An agent-based virtual market for electronic commerce. Journal of Applied Artificial Intelligence 11(6): 501–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Tummolini, L., Castelfranchi, C., Ricci, A., Viroli, M., & Omicini, A. (2004). “Exhibitionists” and “Voyeurs” do it better: A shared environment for flexible coordination with tacit messages. In Wyens et al., [61], (pp. 215–231). Springer.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Valckenaers, P., Sierra, C., & Sauter, J. (2006). Applications of environments for multi-agent systems. In Sycara and Woooldridge [53].Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Vázquez-Salceda, J. (2004). The role of norms and electronic institutions in multi-agent systems, The HARMONIA framework, Whitestein Series in Software Agent Technologies. Springer.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Vázquez-Salceda, J., Accessed in May (2006). From human regulations to regulated software agents’ behaviour. Research report accessible at Scholar
  58. 58.
    Weyns D., Holvoet T. (2004). A formal model for situated multi-agent systems. Fundamenta Informaticae 63(2–3): 125–158zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Weyns, D., Omicini, A., & Odell, J. (2006). Environment, first-order abstraction in multiagent systems. In Sycara and Wooldridge [53].Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Weyns, D., Parunak, H. V. D., & Michel, F. (Eds.) (2004). Environments for multi-agent systems, first international workshop, E4MAS 2004, New York, NY, USA, July 19, 2004, Revised Selected Papers, Vol. 3374 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Weyns, D., Parunak, H. V. D., & Michel, F. (Eds.) (2005a). Environments for multi-agent systems, second international workshop, E4MAS (2005). Utrecht, The Netherlands, July 26, 2005, Revised Selected Papers. Vol. 3830 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Weyns, D., Parunak, H. V. D., Michel, F., Holvoet, T., & Ferber, J. (2004). Environments for multiagent systems, state-of-the-art and research challenges. In Weyns et al. [61].Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Weyns, D., Schelfthout, K., & Holvoet, T. (2005b). Exploiting a virtual environment in a real-world application. In Weyns et al. [62].Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Weyns, D., Schelfthout, K., Holvoet, T., & Lefever, T. (2005c). Decentralized control of E’GV transportation systems. In Dignum et al. [14] (pp. 67–74). ACM.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Wurman, P. R., Wellman, M. P., & Walsh, W. E. (1998). The Michigan internet Auctionbot: A configurable auction server for human and software agents. In The second international conference on autonomous agents (pp. 301–308).Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Zhao, F., & Guibas, L. (2004). Wireless sensor networks: An information processing approach. Elsevier, Morgan-Kaufmann.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Platon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marco Mamei
    • 2
  • Nicolas Sabouret
    • 3
  • Shinichi Honiden
    • 4
  • H. Van Dyke Parunak
    • 5
  1. 1.National Institute of InformaticsSokendai, TokyoJapan
  2. 2.Università di Modena e Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’informatique de Paris 6ParisFrance
  4. 4.National Institute of InformaticsTokyoJapan
  5. 5.NewVectorsAltarum InstituteAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations