FOUNDATION FOR INTELLIGENT PHYSICAL AGENTS

 

Document title:

Agreements Work Plan

Document number:

f-wp-00008

Document source:

FIPA TC Agreements Management

Document status:

Approved

Date of this status:

2000/08/01

Change history:

2000/06/21

Initial draft

2000/08/01

FAB comments (see end)

 

Nicholas R. Jennings Abe Mamdani Timothy J. Norman

<nrj@ecs.soton.ac.uk> <e.mamdani@ic.ac.uk> <tnorman@csd.abdn.ac.uk>

Jeremy Pitt

<j.pitt@ic.ac.uk>

 

This work plan is concerned with creating a specification of agreements, or contracts, between agents and a specification of the services specified within those agreements. An agreement to provide a service of some kind is the goal of a process of negotiation between agents and the basis for their collaborative activity.

 

Problem Statement: Autonomous agents that may be acting on behalf of different organisations or interests may need to collaborate in order to solve specific problems. To define the scope of, and to guide this collaboration, an explicit agreement between these agents is necessary. In fact, the establishment of such an agreement is the goal of a process of negotiation. The FIPA agent communication language specification provides primitives that are specifically designed to be used during automated negotiation, but there exists, to date, no specification for the agreements that are, ideally, a result of this negotiation. This is where this proposal fits in.

 

Agreements may take many forms. An agreement may specify an action to be taken by one party in return for payment from the other. Rather than an action to be performed, it may be necessary to simply specify a state of affairs to be established. What happens when one party does not hold up its part of the bargain? Under such circumstances, the other agent must have some redress; for example, a penalty may be imposed for not performing an action as specified, providing payment or bringing about the state of affairs specified in the agreement. Therefore, it is a challenge to produce a specification of agreements that is sufficiently flexible to capture the various forms of agreement that may be established between agents.

 

A particular example of such an agreement is the Service Level Agreement specified within the ADEPT project (Jennings et al. 2000a, Jennings et al. 2000b). These agreements specify a number of key issues:

 

1.       The service itself can be understood as a procedure, or action, that is performed by the service provider along with policies for providing necessary information to the provider from the consumer and vice versa.

2.       A distinction between a on-off service (to be executed once) and an on-demand service (the agreement provides the availability of a certain volume of services between the start and end times.

3.       The price that must be paid by the service consumer for the service (or for each instance in the case of an on-demand service level agreement).

4.       The penalty that must be paid by the service provider if it fails to complete the service under the conditions of the agreement.

 

This work provides a sound basis from which to develop a FIPA specification for agreements between agents. Of course, there are many other issues that will need careful consideration such as a notion of quality of service, especially with telecommunications applications in mind. Therefore there is also a connection with work on the EU MARINER project (ACTS333) (Jennings et al, 1999), other MARINER/CASBAh project work on ACLs and submitted/presented to FIPA (Pitt and Mamdani, 1999ab; Pitt and Bellifemine, 1999), and new work on trust and contracts in multi-agent systems that stems from FIPA's own workshop on Ethics and Agents held at the FIPA meeting in Dublin during July, 1998.

 

Objective: The goal of this work plan is to create a specification for agent agreements that is sufficiently flexible to capture the various forms of agreement that may be established between agents. Such a specification will provide meaning to the negotiation primitives provided by the FIPA ACL; i.e. there will be a clear purpose for the negotiation process.

 

Technology: This work plan will, using influences from current research and existing engineering practice, produce a language for describing agreements. This will thus standardise the content language of FIPA ACL negotiation primitives.

 

Specifications Generated: This work plan will create a content language specification.

 

Plan for Work:

         Distil the key components of ADEPT Service-Level Agreements to provide a basis on which to build the specification.

         With reference to existing research and engineering practice in a number of application domains, produce a list of further issues that the specification should address. (An example being quality of service; mentioned above.)

         Extend the initial specification to include issues identified in the previous stage.

         Distribute this proposal for criticism, compile feedback from the research and development community and revise specification.

 

Milestones:

         Development according to FIPA standardisation process: from preliminary to experimental

 

Future Work:

 

Dependencies: The specification will depend on FIPA ACL 2000 specifications.

 

Support:

         Phil Buckle, Nortel Networks

         Tim Finin, UMBC

         Mark Greaves, Boeing

 

FAB Comments:

This work plan is approved and has been assigned to the Agreements Management Technical Committee