Internalising Interaction Protocols as First-Class Programming Elements in Multi Agent Systems
PhD thesis, University College Dublin, 2012.
Since their inception, Multi Agent Systems (MASs) have been championed as a solution for the increasing problem of software complexity. Communities of distributed autonomous computing entities that are capable of collaborating, negotiating and acting to solve complex organisational and system manage- ment problems are an attractive proposition. Central to this is the requirement for agents to possess the capability of interacting with one another in a struc- tured, consistent and organised manner. This thesis presents the Agent Conversation Reasoning Engine (ACRE), which constitutes a holistic view of communication management for MASs. ACRE is intended to facilitate the practical development, debugging and deployment of communication-heavy MASs. ACRE has been formally defined in terms of its operational semantics, and a generic architecture has been proposed to facilitate its integration with a wide variety of diverse agent development frameworks and Agent Oriented Pro- gramming (AOP) languages. A concrete implementation has also been de- veloped that uses the Agent Factory AOP framework as its base. This allows ACRE to be used with a number of different AOP languages, while providing a reference implementation that other integrations can be modelled upon. A standard is also proposed for the modelling and sharing of agent-focused in- teraction protocols that is independent of the platform within which a concrete ACRE implementation is run. Finally, a user evaluation illustrates the benefits of incorporating conversation management into agent programming.