Virtual Organization Support through Electronic Institutions and Normative Multi-Agent Systems

Virtual Organization Support through Electronic Institutions and Normative Multi-Agent Systems

H. L. Cardoso (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-984-7.ch051
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The multi-agent system (MAS) paradigm has become a prominent approach in distributed artificial intelligence. Many real-world applications of MAS require ensuring cooperative outcomes in scenarios populated with self-interested agents. Following this concern, a strong research emphasis has been given recently to normative MAS. A major application area of MAS technology is e-business automation, including the establishment and operation of business relationships and the formation of virtual organizations (VOs). One of the key factors influencing the adoption of agent-based approaches in real-world business scenarios is trust. The concept of an electronic institution (EI) has been proposed as a means to provide a regulated and trustable environment, by enforcing norms of behavior and by providing specific services for smooth inter-operability. This chapter exposes our work towards the development of an agent-based EI providing a virtual normative environment that assists and regulates the creation and operation of VOs through contract-related services. It includes a presentation of the EI framework, knowledge representation structures for norms in contracts, and a description of two main institutional services, namely negotiation mediation and contract monitoring.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multi-Agent System: A system where multiple agents interact.

Normative Multi-Agent System: A set of interacting agents whose behavior can be regarded as governed by norms.

Norm: A prescription of behavior.

Electronic Institution: A software platform providing a set of contract-related services for agent interaction and a normative environment for enforcing contracts.

Role: A set of normative expectations and empowerments.

Agent: A goal-directed entity capable of interacting with the surrounding environment in an autonomous fashion; a software program representing an individual business entity.

Virtual Organization: A consortium of organizations (enterprises) that align their businesses to perform integrated and more complex activities.

Contract: An explicit formulation of agents’ commitments.

Cooperation Agreement: A contract with an ongoing nature, regulating a virtual organization relationship that exists for a period of time.

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