Monday, June 17, 2024

Smart Agents

Your personal, online agent is busily completing tasks while you sleep. Is it a dream or reality?

While the technology exists to help you find online information, is there enough intelligent processing available to create a truly personal agent? Can these “smart tools” really get to know you well enough to make decisions for you? Let’s take a look…

If You Teach Me, I Will Go…

There are web sites that tout smart agents or bots (short for “robots”) that will help you find anything you want. For the most part, many of them are designed to find the cheapest price for an item that you have already determined you want to buy.

But to be truly personal, these bots must also be able to understand what you may like. For instance, if the bot is searching for an item that you have designated and it comes across another item that may be of interest, how will it know?

Your colleagues may tell you about a neat new TV set they saw in a store because they heard you talking about televisions at lunch. How is a smart agent supposed to have that type of interaction with you?

The difficulty with today’s technology is that it must be taught by you to think like you. Leaps have occurred in the field of artificial intelligence, but we have yet to see the creation of products or services that use AI to personally benefit us by knowing our needs.

The Cold Reception

And it gets worse: web site owners despise these bots. They claim that the bots make too many requests on their web servers and place an unnecessary burden on their systems.

It makes sense: if one million people have an agent that checks a web site every 15 minutes for a price deal, then that web server will receive 4 million hits an hour without any real transaction taking place. And any banner ads presented are useless to a bot.

What’s the answer? First, agents need to be coordinated. If a central agent processor could take multiple requests and send them to a web server as one package, the web server could efficiently deal with the requests and send back one set of answers to a central system that would notify the individuals who made the requests.

But that leads to the second problem: the companies who manage the web servers have no platform for receiving and replying to these types of requests. And some companies, like eBay, have specifically stated that they will not honor any of these types of requests. They want the individual to visit the eBay web site.

A Future Possibility

All successful Internet ventures have one thing in common: they provide either a new way or an improved way for people to communicate. eBay allows people to buy/sell items across vast distances. All of the “instant messaging” programs allow quick and convenient access to each other for immediate interaction. And a less intrusive form of communication, called email, has helped us communicate in ways that the telephone never could.

So what about bots? They, too, have a future in our communication capabilities. The first step is to create the killer bot that will offer a service everyone can use. The final step will be to convince web site owners to create ways that the bots can interact with their systems without taking resources away from the individuals using the sites.

Concept Review

Bots or Smart Agents are still a vision of the future, but their reality is getting closer. Since they offer us an advanced way to communicate, we will eventually see a new class of these software applications that will provide useful services to the online community.

Ishtot – Describing Technology in Terms of Business Paul Carney has helped build and sell two online businesses and now uses his technical background and business knowledge to help business leaders understand today’s technical concepts in the context of business. For more information, visit

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