and the future
hand-held computers or PDAs are getting the same treatment that those
chunky cellular phones received about a decade back. Yet, the rapid
transformation of the Sri Lankan society that was brought about by
a cellular phone revolution seems to have somewhat overshadowed the
potential power behind hand-held computers. I call it a cellular phone
revolution because it is not yet broad enough to be called a mobile
communication revolution. The telephone still takes care of most of
our needs and we are quite content without broadband internet on the
move. It could be argued that palmtop computing has outgrown the definition
of 'personal digital assistants' with the rapid expansion of its capabilities
that could soon rival those of the heavy desktops.
the recent developments and the fact that the technology and infrastructure
required is already available, palmtop computing has not caught
on as fast as some may have expected.
There can be
many reasons for this such as the perception that such equipment
is expensive, not powerful enough and laptops (though they are a
touch heavier) can do the job. These views aren't totally unfounded
but the business world in particular has failed to notice how mobile
computing could benefit them.
The point I
want to make here is that businesses in the developed countries
appear to be making good use of this technology to increase productivity
by re-engineering their business processes with the aid of mobile
computing. With the use of new technology, sales agents in the field
for example, could play an active role in the collection of sales
data and updating them in real-time. The use of technology in this
particular instance would enhance the accuracy in the process of
collecting data; some of which would never be collected if not for
the use of these 'mobile networks'. This in-turn provides the organisation
with vital statistical data for better, faster, accurate and up-to-date
This is merely
one example of the potential benefits that mobile computing could
bring with it to the business world. Much of the world of mobile
computing remains unexplored. Its buried treasures and new discoveries
remain hidden for those bold explorers who would be daring enough
to take up the challenge and explore its landscape. Will they be
the emperors of new and fertile lands yet unknown? Only time will
New research in autonomous software agents could lead to new
software entities that are active players in the economy. Actually,
the concept of software agents is one that was brought up about
a decade ago. Early visions suggested that every PC user would have
a software agent on his desktop, carrying out simple tasks such
as checking on monthly sales reports and prompting alerts about
upcoming meetings. One example of this type of personal digital
assistant, Microsoft's Bob, never caught on with the computing public.
A lot has happened
since then. Researchers are developing autonomous software agents
that interact with other agents on behalf of businesses. These agents
aren't carrying out simple tasks. On the contrary, they're carrying
out processes that would take humans a great deal of time to complete.
Autonomous software agents, in fact, excel at managing complexity
and large amounts of information.
agents differ from other types of software in their ability to execute
in complex domains under a wide variety of situations. While most
application software executes in response to user input, autonomous
agents respond to a wide variety of conditions in their environment
through sophisticated sensing mechanisms.
being developed to carry out activities in e-commerce environments
that include customer service, product configuration, buying and
selling. Agents are also managing computing resources in network
management and security systems. Agents will also play an important
role in helping humans to collect and analyse complex information,
and will become part of high-end analytics applications.
foresee broad use of agent software in e-commerce. The idea is to
create a new economic species that will be created partially in
our image, but significantly different from humans. Software agents
will actively participate in the economy on behalf of their 'clients'.
have already created software agents that work in on-line auctions,
bidding on goods and services, responding to the bids of their competitors,
and even developing bidding strategies with other agents to outsmart
In a demonstration
earlier this year, agents actually outperformed humans. Humans were
prone to make typing mistakes, thus throwing off their bids in on-line
auctions. Granted, the agents weren't without their own problems;
they started to develop aberrant behaviour, bidding too low for
good at taking into account a lot of data in a short period of time.
Agent software could be used to set dynamic prices, to collect market
data, to sense emerging market conditions, to engage in data mining
across a variety of databases, and to collaborate with other agents.
This type of
autonomous software could also be used to assist businesses in:
* Carrying out complex negotiations between trading partners,
* Searching for and helping to configure complex products,
* Locating business partners across the Web,
* Managing the many elements of a complex project,
* Tracking a multitude of business conditions and triggering an
alert that would result in human intervention.
of software agents is to make markets more efficient by maximising
profits. They would proactively carry out corporate goals and minimise
delays between the initiation and the completion of a particular
job or task. Autonomous agents will also be good at looking for
patterns in systems. A company called SearchSpace, for instance,
has already developed software sentinels that create profiles of
cell phone customers based on their usage patterns. When someone
uses a particular cell phone account, that call is compared to the
pattern of calls that subscriber usually makes. If the call seems
out of the ordinary, the user is prompted to enter a personal identification
number before the call is put through. If the user can't enter the
PIN, chances are the phone has been stolen, and the phone company
can shut down the account!
agents are also starting to be used in intrusion-detection systems.
They would move through a network and look for unauthorised users.
are also looking at the possible use of intelligent agents to manage
the telecommunications network. These autonomous agents can perform
in proactive and reactive mode. Scientists are working to create
a common language for agents to communicate with each other.
This type of
software seems to take advantage of what computers are best at:
processing lots of data in short periods of time. It is unlikely
that agents will replace human thought and reasoning unless there
is a major breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence but it will go
a long way to making businesses and their systems more efficient.
Are you looking
forward to autonomous agents? Using them already? Do you think this
is a good idea? What will be the problems we will have to face if
we use them? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
with your ideas.
(News source: TechWeb)
Royal and Bridget's
in search of talent
annual Talent Search organised by the Interact Clubs of St. Bridget's
Convent and Royal College, Colombo will be held this month. The semi-finals
are being worked off today and on October 13 with the contest reaching
its grand finale on October 19.
which is one of the highlights of the Interact calendar aims to
bring out the hidden talents of the youth in our schools. The competition
covers many areas from instrumentals to solo singing and group performances.
categories will be worked off today at the Navarangahala: Instrumental,
DJ and Dancing.
for the singing, rap and instrumental (non- acoustic) categories
will be held next Sunday, October 13 at the Royal College Hall.
All those who
wish to take part can register through their interact clubs on-line
at www.tscjbnet or e-mail talentsearch_2002@
hotmail.com. The grand finale of the Talent Search will be held
on Saturday, October 19 at the Navarangahala.
is sponsored by ABS, the Academy of Business Studies, while ICBT,
the International College of Business and Technology are co-sponsoring
food sponsor is Keells while ETV and The Sunday Times are the media