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Next: Specification of Solvables Up: Mechanisms of Cooperation Previous: The Interagent Communication Language

Providing Services

 

Every agent participating in an OAA-based system defines and publishes a set of capabilities declarations, expressed in ICL, describing the services that it provides. These declarations establish a high-level interface to the agent. This interface is used by a facilitator in communicating with the agent, and, most important, in delegating service requests (or parts of requests) to the agent. Partly due to the use of PROLOG as the basis of ICL, we refer to these capabilities declarations as solvables.

Two major types of solvables are distinguished: procedure solvables and data solvables. Intuitively, a procedure solvable performs a test or action, whereas a data solvable provides access to a collection of data. For example, in creating an agent for a mail system, procedure solvables might be defined for sending a message to a person, testing whether a message about a particular subject has arrived in the mail queue, or displaying a particular message onscreen. For a database wrapper agent, one might define a distinct data solvable corresponding to each of the relations present in the database. Often, a data solvable is used to provide a shared data store, which may be not only queried, but also updated, by various agents having the required permissions.

Technically, the primary differences between the two types of solvables are these: First, each procedure solvable must have a handler declared and defined for it, whereas this is not necessary for a data solvable. (The handling of requests for a data solvable is provided transparently by the agent library.) Second, data solvables are associated with a dynamic collection of facts (or clauses), which may be modified at runtime, both by the agent providing the solvable, and by other agents (provided they have the required permissions). Third, special features, available for use with data solvables, facilitate maintaining the associated facts. Some of these features are mentioned in Section 6.

In spite of these differences, it should be noted that the means of use (that is, the means by which an agent requests a service) is the same for the two types of solvables. Requesting of services is described in Section 5.3.

A request for one of an agent's services normally arrives in the form of an event from the agent's facilitator. The appropriate handler then deals with this event. The handler may be coded in whatever fashion is most appropriate, depending on the nature of the task, and the availability of task-specific libraries or legacy code, if any. The only hard requirement is that the handler return an appropriate response to the request, expressed in ICL. Depending on the nature of the request, this response could be an indication of success or failure, or a list of solutions (when the request is a data query).

The agent library provides a set of procedures allowing an agent to add, remove, and modify its solvables, which it may do at any time after connecting to its facilitator.




next up previous
Next: Specification of Solvables Up: Mechanisms of Cooperation Previous: The Interagent Communication Language

Adam Cheyer
Mon Oct 19 17:14:26 PDT 1998