Object Services and Consulting,
Agility: Agent -Ility Architecture
June 17, 2002
Principal Investigator: Craig
Bannon, Steve Ford, Paul
DARPA Control of Agent-based Systems (CoABS)
DARPA Program Manager: Dr. James Hendler, LCDR
Contract No. F30602-98-C-0159 AO J357
Contract Duration: 18 June 1998 - 17 June 2002
This research is sponsored by
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and managed by the U.S. Air
Force Research Laboratory under contract F30602-98-C-0159.
The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors
and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either
expressed or implied, of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, or the United States Government.
We provide four top-level project summaries:
In addition, we provide specific descriptions and
user manuals for the three technologies we developed: eGents,
the first follows and summarizes our main accomplishments
the second is in the form of a final
review presentation and provides a .ppt description of our objectives
the third is our public web page (http://www.objs.com/agility/index.html),
maintained throughout the project
the fourth is our Government-only web page (password
protected site, available upon request to qualified Government personnel)
containing monthly, quarterly, and annual progress and financial reports
and URLs of all technical presentations and reports.
Quad Chart Overview
Today's agent systems are monolithic, centralized,
and do not provide a clear migration path for integration with mainstream
technologies (e.g., object and web technologies). As a consequence,
though agent technology is identified as a promising high impact DoD software
technology, it is not significantly impacting DoD, software technology
or the mass market.
The objective of the Agility project is to develop
an open agent grid architecture populated with scalable, deployable, industrial
strength agent grid components, targeting the theme "agents for the masses."
Our overall technical approach has been to deconstruct
agent systems into components, then populate an open agent grid architecture
with scalable light-weight agent grid components that are engineered to
existing and emerging standards (e.g., distributed objects, email, web,
search engines, XML, Java, Jini).
Specific objectives are to develop:
These components should operate standalone and/or
interoperate with the CoABS grid.
a light-weight agent system that uses email for message
a constrained natural language interface system that
can wrap agents and other Internet resources and operate over the web (AgentGram),
a yellow pages service that uses Internet search
engines to locate XML ads for agents and other Internet resources (WebTrader).
In 1998 we presented Strawman
Agent Architecture to DARPA CoABS, ATAIS, and ALP, then submitted
it to OMG Agent SIG and to FIPA. Parts of the presentation are now
incorporated in the OMG Agent SIG Green
Paper on Agent Technology, which we co-authored.
In 1999, our paper Characterizing
the Agent Grid was submitted to and accepted for Jeff Bradshaw's
book Handbook of Agent Systems. Sections of the paper appear
in the architectural sections of the CoABS Grid Vision document
(available on the GITI CoABS
website, password protected).
To demonstrate our component-based approach, we are
developed prototypes of three agent grid components (eGents, AgentGram,
and WebTrader), and made the following technical progress:
are agents that communicate via email. We focused the bulk of our
effort on eGents because of the widespread potential impact to DoD and
industry. The potential impact of eGents is, anyone with email can create
an agent service that anyone else can use. Imagine eGents attached to sensors,
actuators, people, equipment, weapons, and locations as pervasive observers
and actors. In the first years, we developed the basic eGent prototype
which included the idea of encoding agent communication language in XML
and demonstrated email used as an agent transport. We submitted both
ideas to FIPA and they adopted both. More recently, we extended eGents
to operate wirelessly on Palms and to support time-constrained publish-and-subscribe
messaging consistent with the Joint Battlespace Infosphere (JBI) architecture.
eGents should run on any Java platform; it was tested on NT/2000 machines;
it connects to garden variety SMTP/POP3 email servers. A ported eGents
runs on KVM (J2ME CLDC 1.0 FCS) on the Palm Vx.
wraps Internet resources including agents with menu-based natural language
interfaces. It can operate over the web so the interface is remote from
parser and resource. We designed a way to annotate web pages with grammars,
a step towards the semantic web. We demonstrated AgentGram in the CoAX
TIE where it was used for wildlife location queries at the last minute
before a planned UN firestorm, forcing replanning. Potential impact: Humans
can task and query agents using complex but understandable commands in
constrained natural language that the system is guaranteed to understand.
This technology can mix pervasively into all applications, both on the
desktop and the Web. The user interface client was
and Netscape browsers. The backend parser server is in C.
is a scalable robust trader component architected for the global grid.
WebTrader locates advertisements, represented in XML stored on web pages,
that have been indexed by industrial strength search engines. Advertisement
types include agents, components, data sources, search engines, MBNLI grammars,
other traders, channels, and other types of resources. Potential impact:
In the spirit of the semantic web, anyone on the Web can advertise a resource
(e.g., agent, service, data source) that anyone else can discover.
WebTrader's user interface is a Java applet that runs in IE and Netscape;
its server uses Apache web server and Thunderstone's Webinator 2.5 search
engine, and can interface to other search engines.
Papers and Workshops
In addition to our architecture presentation and
grid paper mentioned above, early versions of the three prototypes were
described in a workshop paper:
Also, we were/are on the program committees for:
Software and the Grid
All three prototypes were extended to operate over
the over the CoABS 24x7 Grid
and were available for a year on the grid (see the grid archives and individual
descriptions of eGents, AgentGram, and WebTrader).
We participated in four TIE efforts covering DoD
In the non-combatant evacuation order domain (NEO
TIE), AgentGram was used to request the location of evacuees.
WebTrader was used to locate various agent services. This was demoed at
several CoABS meetings and as part of the NEO TIE demonstration now running
at AFRL. Developed later, eGents was used to monitor and observe
health and location status of non-combatant evacuees in a NEO-like scenario.
In the disaster recovery domain (MIATA TIE),
eGents sent field reports (e.g., bridge out, typhoid outbreak). This was
demoed at CoABS Workshop in Miami using a wireless Palm.
In the coalition domain (CoAX
TIE), eGents sent biosurveillance reports (e.g., location of elephants
threatened by a planned UN firestorm in Safari Park Binni Wildlife vignette).
AgentGram was used to query for the location of elephants near a UN firestorm.
This was demoed at the CoABS Workshops in Miami and Nashua. See CoAX
TIE avi (.exe includes TechSmith TSCC Codec and viewer - 4.2MB).
In the small unit operations domain (Y-JBI TIE),
commanders drill down via a map to subscribe to and monitor troop and platoon
status during an attack and fuselets notice patterns (e.g., chemical attack,
soldier wounded). This was demoed at CoABS Workshop in Nashua. See
TIE avi (.exe includes TechSmith TSCC Codec and viewer - 2.9MB
- 2:14 min).
We completed two patent applications:
Network Query and Matching System and Method
- U.S. Patent App. No. 09/407,555
Guided Natural Language Interface System and Method
- U.S. Patent App. No. 09/634,108
Related DARPA Programs and Other Contracts
Frank Manola completed the ALP-CoABS
Integration Final Report in July 1999.
Program managers Jim Hendler and Todd Carrico indicated that we did a good
job and both felt more integration work might occur at a later date but
neither was ready to fund more work at that time on CoABS-ALP TIEs.
Work begun on eGents under CoABS has led to two
the DARPA UltraLog
MsgLog contract (in progress) - the idea is to provide the ALP-Cougaar
agent based system with multiple communication transports (email and NNTP
in addition to RMI) and then use policy management to select among them
to insure survivable, robust message delivery in chaotic environments.
Wells described our Msg*Log project, including its origins in the CoABS
Agility project, in Msg*Log:
Email-based Agent Messaging to Improve Robustness in a Distributed Logistics
Planner, a paper for the Software Technology Conference (STC
2001), Salt Lake City, Apr 29-May 4, 2001.
an SBIR II with ScenPro as prime (to begin FY02)
- the idea is to extend eGents in several ways to support small unit operations
We influenced agent standards:
We organized and co-chair OMG Agent Working Group,
maintain its web page including agendas and minutes of most meetings, and
have used this forum to showcase DARPA work on agents, grid, ontology,
and mobility to mutual benefit.
OMG Document: Mission
Statement, Craig Thompson, March 23, 1999
OMG Document: OMG-FIPA
Liaison, Craig Thompson, March 24, 1999 - passed by vote in OMG, passed
by vote at FIPA Nice
OMG Document: Agent
Technology RFI, Craig Thompson, March 23, 1999 - issued to industry,
responses are here.
OMG Document: Agent
Grid Presentation, Craig Thompson, August 23, 1999
OMG Document: Agent
Glossary, Craig Thompson, September 10, 1999
Tech Note: Requirements
for an Agent Discovery Service, January 2000
OMG Document: Agent
Technology Green Paper, August 2000 - added sections on agent architectures,
grid and ilities, and on the Relationship of Agents and Objects, pp 41-45.
OMG Document: White
Paper and Roadmap for Agent Technology Standards (rev .04), March 2000
We are working on productizing AgentGram via the
Some of the more important future directions are:
Additional next steps for eGents, WebTrader, and
AgentGram are described in the Final
Review .ppt presentation.
Extend eGents for automated deployment to new platforms,
download eGent apps to the field as situations change, and improve eGents
security - currently eGents requires manual installation limiting fast
fanout of new eGent applications.
Extend the CoABS grid to support survivable multi-transport
messaging - leverages our ongoing Cougaar Ultralog survivable, policy-driven
messaging work, which got its start with eGents! This is a step towards
demonstrating how to control system-wide properties (QoS ilities) in agent/grid
Extend Agility components to support FY02 CoAX and
JBI TIEs as required. Update to latest grid release. Package eGents for
public release. Rendezvous selected components with DAML.
We started with a reasonable thesis and were able
to demonstrate feasibility of the approach of deconstructing agent systems
into components and rebuilding industustrial strength components, piggybacking
their implementations on already pervasive technology. This does
appear to be a viable route for getting agent technology into the mass
market in a way that provides a migration path.