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Intelligent agents are software programs that work in the background to carry out specific, repetitive, and predictable tasks for an individual user or an organization. To accomplish tasks or make decisions on behalf of the user or the organization, the agent uses a built-in or learned knowledge that was obtained from the user or organization. For example, when a person specifies his or her needs, constraints, and preferences, the Internet travel agent would then find some possibilities based upon the travels that have previously been made by the person. We are now seeing many organizations use the intelligent agents as their filtering, negotiating, and coordinating technologies.
As a filtering tool for the digital library, the intelligent agent is used to retrieve information from distributed sources and filter information on contents. As a brokering tool, the intelligent agent finds information not only about products of a specific company but also about prices from another company that provides competing products. By bidding prices based on the competing prices, the intelligent agent helps bidding companies negotiate the prices and specifications of the products. Bui et al. (2002) reported on a Web-enabled hospital that connects its patients to doctors and insurance companies through the Internet. The intelligent agent was used to monitor patients’ health conditions in real time, negotiate costs of treatment between different health-care providers, and verify insurance coverage of a particular medical treatment. Agent-based systems can also be used for intelligent automated coordination in managing inter- and intraorganizational business processes, including task scheduling and resource allocation (Deschner, Hofmann, & Bodendorf, 2000).
Many efforts to develop better intelligent agents are underway. For example, Kang and Han (2003) suggested a broker-based synchronous transaction algorithm that can improve the process of transaction between sellers and buyers. The intelligent agents are now being used to realize mass customization. Burgwinkel (2002) also reported on electronic negotiation and contract using XML that allowed business partners to synchronize obligations, rights, and penalties.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, mentioned, “If I have 3 million customers on the Web, I should have 3 million stores on the Web.” It is possible only because intelligent agents can create a unique store for each of the Amazon customers. Turowski (2002) showed how multiple companies used intelligent agents to interchange business data and coordinate their business activities in providing services and products.
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