Agents of change
Autonomous agents could one day play a key role in everything from setting market prices to creating more resilient networks
Computerworld - Over the past year, NASA has been uploading software into the Earth Observing-1 satellite, turning it into a testbed for autonomous agents. The agents -- software programs that are able to learn and can function independently -- are used to manage experiments and operate the spacecraft.
The effort is part of a technology initiative that researchers say will reshape IT over the course of many years. Autonomous agents have the potential to become an extraordinarily powerful technology, with the capacity to learn, experiment and act independent of human control. Agents could ultimately improve productivity, increase software reliability and change the operation of markets, particularly supply chains.
NASA uses autonomous agents to handle tasks that appear simple but are actually quite complex. For example, one mission goal handled by autonomous agents is simply to not waste fuel. But accomplishing that means balancing multiple demands, such as staying on course and keeping experiments running, as well as dealing with the unexpected.
"What happens if you run out of power and you're on the dark side of the planet and the communications systems is having a problem? It's all those combinations that make life exciting," says Steve Chien, principal scientist for automated planning and scheduling at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Like many programs, agent software and related algorithms are often coded in Java. What makes them different is that the designs also incorporate disciplines such as game theory. Agent designers tend to draw from a variety of areas, such as economics and psychology, in an effort to create programs capable of handling complex interactions.
NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite, which began operation in 2000, was recently turned into an autonomous agent testbed.
Image Credit: NASA
At NASA, software agents are performing work previously handled by ground controllers. But the cost-saving potential of agents is something "we don't emphasize, because nobody likes their budget reduced," says Chien. Instead, the focus is on the additional scientific research created by the use of agent-based software.
Making markets, supply chains, telecommunications and other systems more efficient through the use of agents is a subject of intense interest. Some 800 researchers recently gathered at Columbia University for the Third International Joint Conference
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- CIOs Deliver Productivity Breakthroughs with Intelligent Digital Signage Retailers have long recognized the influence that digital signage provides over a shopper's point-of-purchase decision making process.
- ERP in the Cloud and the Modern Business View IDC's White Paper, to review IDC CloudTrack Survey findings, gain expert insight into the challenges and opportunities the cloud presents, and determine...
- Oracle ERP Cloud Service - Back-Office Solutions that Keep You in Front Learn how you can harness the power of the cloud to run your business more effectively and lower upfront costs.
- Integration with Oracle Fusion Financials Cloud Service While moving your financial system to the cloud may seem straightforward, truly realizing the advantages of the cloud requires a complete understanding how...
Transforming Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain Effectiveness with Cross-Functional Analytics
Date: May 6th, 2014
Time: 1 PM EDT
Attend this Webcast to find out how Oracle's packaged analytic applications enable line-of-business managers to examine all...
- Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior This scientific white paper, using statistical data from Amakai's streaming network, analyzes how changes in video quality cause changes in viewer behavior. All Applications White Papers | Webcasts