Multi-Agent systems

A Multi-Agent systems is a system in which more than one (software) agent operates. With an ‘agent’ we do not refer to a fysical agent, but to a piece of software that operates on behalf of its ‘owner’. The concept is derived from the traditional agent-prinicipal relationship we can find at for instance a insurance-agent and an insurance company. In such a relationship the agent is expected to act on behalf of its principal and along the principal’s lines. De principal is the person or organization that is represented by the agent. The agent has a mandate to make a contract and decisions on behalf of the principal. The relationship between an agent and a fysical person or company in a Multi-Agent system is analogous to this traditional agent-principal relationship.

For the barge example the Multi-Agent system looks conceptually as follows: MultiAgentSystem

Every planner has its own agent. This agent runs on the local server of the company it works for. The agent gets all the relevant information from its planner to make the right decisions. The agent in turn communicates with agents of other companies to make appointments. The agents only exchange only limited information between each other, but enough to make the best decision for their planners.

For instance: based on the information the barge operator agent gets from all the terminal operators a barge has to visit, it searches for the best rotation possible and makes agreements with terminal operator agents. The way this is done is similar to the way the planner would have decided otherwise. Terminal operator agents in turn process the information they get such that they make decisions as their planner would have done otherwise. In case of an exception the planner can be consulted to indicate the decision (s)he thinks is the best.

In our research we have developed a solution for the barge handling problem using decentralized planning. For more information we refer to Aligning the Operations of Barges and Terminal through Distributed Planning. Next>>