An Electronic-Service (E-Service) can be defined as a collection of network-resident software programs that collaborate for supporting users in both accessing and selecting data and services of their interest present in a provider site. Examples of e-services are e-commerce, e-learning, e-government, e-recruitment and e-health applications. E-Services are undoubtely one of the engines presently supporting the Internet Revolution. Indeed, nowadays, a large number and a great variety of providers offer their services also or exclusively via the Internet.
In spite of their spectacular development and present relevance, E-Services are far to be considered a stable technology and various improvements could be thought for them. Many of the present suggestions for improving them are based on the concept of adaptivity, i.e., on the capability to make them more flexible in such a way as to adapt their offers and behaviour to the “environment” they are operating in. In this context, systems capable of constructing, maintaining and exploiting suitable profiles for users accessing E-Services appear capable of playing a key role in the future (Kobsa, 2007).
Both in the past and in the present, various E-Service providers exploit (usually rough) user profiles for proposing personalized offers. However, in most cases, the profile construction methodology adopted by them presents some problems. In fact, it often requires a user to spend a certain amount of time for constructing and updating his profile; in addition, the profile of a user stores only information about the proposals which he claims to be interested in, without considering other ones, somehow related to those just provided, possibly interesting him in the future and that he disregarded to take into account in the past.
In spite of present user profile handlers, generally, when accessing an E-Service, a user must personally search the proposals of his interest through it. We argue that, for improving the effectiveness of E-Services, it is necessary to increase the interaction between the provider and the user, on one hand, and to construct a rich profile of the user, taking his interests, needs and past behaviour into account, on the other hand.
In addition, a further important factor must be taken into account. Nowadays, electronic and telecommunications technology is rapidly evolving in such a way as to allow cell phones, palmtops and wireless PDAs to navigate on the Web. These mobile devices do not have the same display or bandwidth capabilities as their desktop counterparts; nonetheless, present E-Service providers deliver the same contents to all device typologies (Communications of the ACM, 2002; ; Smith, Cotter & Oman, 2007).
In the past, various approaches have been proposed for handling E-Service activities; some of them are agent-based. As an example: