WO1999062012A1 - Electronic communications system - Google Patents

Electronic communications system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO1999062012A1
WO1999062012A1 PCT/GB1999/001614 GB9901614W WO9962012A1 WO 1999062012 A1 WO1999062012 A1 WO 1999062012A1 GB 9901614 W GB9901614 W GB 9901614W WO 9962012 A1 WO9962012 A1 WO 9962012A1
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WO
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
system
user
information
users
means
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB1999/001614
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Ronald William Smith
Sean Christopher Martin
Original Assignee
Cambridge Consultants Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions

Abstract

An electronic communications system for use by system users who interact with the system has a profiling system for creating separate profiles for each of the system users based on the monitoring of a number of interactions which each user has with the communications system. A number of system user profiles are created, and each profile indicates at least one interest for the system user with which it is associated. The communications system also has a virtual chamber of commerce which has a match-discovering system to actively search for matched groups of system user profiles. All the profiles in a matched group have at least one interest in common. The communications system also has a match-making system to actively create communication links between system users whose profiles form part of a matched group.

Description

Electronic communications system

Field of the invention

The present invention relates to electronic communications systems which allow data provision, selection and retrieval. The present invention is particularly concerned with such electronic communications systems which direct system users towards items which are of relevance or interest to them.

Background Art

Known electronic communications systems which direct system users towards relevant items are merely passive information brokerage systems .

Such prior art systems use repository-based techniques such as :

- providing a naming service for items;

- providing facilities which allow a system user (i.e. either an item provider or an item consumer) to define an item which is either being looked for or provided according to a predefined list of criteria. Such naming may, for example, be context-based - system users give an initial naming context and are subsequently provided with a list of more detailed names which are relevant to that particular context;

- pre-defining trading 'links' in trading graphs in order to allow interaction between traders using a system;

- providing a directory service in which a central repositary for information about available items is made available to system users .

Examples of such prior art systems include the TINA broker, the OMG Trading Object Service, the CORBA naming and trading services and the Open Group Distributed Computing Environment Directory Service. 'Items ' - both in the prior art and in the present invention - may be electronic documents containing data or containing programs or they may be any other form of information or service which may be provided/consumed via an electronic communications system.

Items may contain information concerning, for example, tradable products, general information, information services, a physical resource or a physical service. Alternatively the item may, itself, be what a system user is either providing or consuming .

The prior art systems passively store information and respond to requests from users. Thus prior art systems create links between system users and relevant items .

Such prior art systems can only respond to specific user requests and are not able to act autonomously to provide a user with information which is relevant to that user.

A user of a prior art system must actively classify the item they are either providing or searching for by answering questions which the system puts to them or by making conscious decisions in choosing a particular name from a list of possible names. Most prior art systems (other than those mentioned below) also require a user to actively classify their interests in order to form some sort of user profile.

Also, such prior art systems are only capable of looking for items or of passing on information concerning items when the system has been explicitly instructed to do so by a user. Links between users and items are only made at the time of data provision or attempted data retrieval.

Thus an item which is of great relevance to a particular user is not transferred to that user unless the user happens to be asking/providing at the 'right' moment in time. Prior art systems are also not capable of coping effectively with a dynamic environment in which new types of items are being provided/searched for. The classification systems of prior art systems are 'system-driven' in that a classification structure is set up and users must define the item they are providing (or searching for) in terms of this classification structure.

Such classification structures, once set up, are typically either difficult or impossible to change in response to new categories or types of items becoming available. Classification systems which do allow such changes cannot carry out the changes while continuing to provide a classification service.

Also known in the prior art are communications systems which automatically identify 'user target profiles' based on the classifications of items which a user has accessed (see, for example, WO-97/16796) .

Also known in the prior art are physical chambers of commerce which offer services for creating networks of relationships between people who are involved in the same or complementary forms of business .

These physical chambers of commerce function effectively, but are not constructed such that they may be used for autonomously setting up networks of relationships among users of an electronic communications system. The physical chambers of commerce require substantial amounts of human effort both to create and to run. The human effort involved is of a type which it would not, a priori, seem appropriate to use information technology for.

No prior art exists wherein the principles of a physical chamber of commerce are used for creating a powerful electronic communications system which autonomously discovers what a user is interested in, finds other system users with relevant profiles and either promotes contact between or creates links between the first user and other system users with relevant profiles .

The object of the present invention is to provide an electronic communications system which acts autonomously in putting system users in contact with other system users who have an item or items which is/are of relevance to the first system user (whether such a user is a provider or a consumer of items - or, indeed, both simultaneously) .

Another object of the present invention is to provide an electronic communications system which acts autonomously in coping with a dynamic environment in which there are new users who join the system and putting such new system users in contact with other system users who have an item or items of relevance to the new system user.

Another object of the present invention is to provide an electronic communications system that can cope with a dynamic environment in which new types or categories of item are offered by item providers or searched for by item consumers .

Summary of the Invention

The present invention provides an electronic communications system comprising:

- a plurality of virtual agents each of which acts on behalf of a particular system user or another virtual agent; and

- a virtual chamber of commerce which actively creates communications links between selected groups of virtual agents . In another aspect, the present invention provides an electronic communications system for use by system users who interact with the system, which electronic communications system comprises :

- profiling means for creating separate system user profiles for each of said system users based on monitoring a plurality of interactions which each said user has with the electronic communications system, whereby a plurality of system user profiles are created, each of which indicates at least one system user interest for the system user with which it is associated;

at least one virtual chamber of commerce which comprises

- match-discovering means which actively search for matched groups of system user profiles of different system users wherein all the system user profiles in such a matched group have at least one system user interest in common; and

- match-making means which actively create communication links between system users whose system user profiles form part of a matched group.

The present invention elegantly overcomes the problems of prior art systems .

In particular, a major advantage of the system of the invention is that communications links between users are created actively (i.e. autonomously) by the system.

The arrangement of the present invention dramatically increases the speed with which relevant information is transferred to a system user. The system of the present invention creates this technical effect without needing to provide faster hardware - in an analogous manner to which the organisation of two memories under appropriate program control can produce the technical effect of a virtual extension of working memory in a system which has a small, fast, working memory and a larger but slower further memory.

Since the system of the present invention actively creates communications links between users of a matched group (instead of merely reactively creating communications links between users and relevant items as in prior art systems) , it is eminently suited to dealing with a changing environment in which new types of item are constantly being provided or searched for by system users. That is to say, the present system is, unlike prior art systems, capable of using a 'user- driven', implicit rather than a 'system-driven', explicit classification system.

Since the system of the present invention is autonomous in nature, the provision of access to relevant items to system users is not dependent on system users being lucky enough to make the 'right' request at the 'right' time. Also, because the system of the invention is acting autonomously, it makes links relevant to new system users and items and can thus cope with a dynamic environment inwhich new users interact with the system.

Further aspects, advantages and objectives of the invention will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description.

Detailed description

The inventive concept behind the present invention can be difficult to comprehend. This description describes a number of different embodiments in order that the reader will come to an understanding of the invention.

An electronic communications system of a first embodiment comprises : - an inferring means which autonomously infers information concerning system users (comprising consumers, providers and consumer/providers) for each particular system user, by monitoring a plurality of interactions which each particular user has with the electronic communications system;

- a memory which stores the information concerning system users;

- virtual chambers of commerce for making links between system users and, when required, for relaying items between item providers and item consumers . These virtual chambers of commerce comprise:

- matching means which search for common patterns in the information concerning system users stored in the memory means; and

- communicating means which communicate information concerning patterns found by the matching means to the system users whose stored information was found by the matching means to form part of a common pattern.

Note that such an embodiment acts autonomously in inferring a user's interests from their active behaviour and not from 'asking' explicit questions.

In all the embodiments of the invention, it is to be noted that a distinction exists between system users who interact with the system, that is, human or non-human entities which exhibit some sort of behaviour pattern, and other parts of the system (e.g. items, memory etc.). The system users are those entities which exhibit a behaviour pattern in the way they interact with the communications system of the invention. Such a system user may be a single person or a legal person or any group of people who access the system in such a way that the system recognises them as a single user or an agent or proxy who acts on behalf of any of the foregoing. A system user may also be non-human, such as one of the chambers of commerce which exhibits a behaviour pattern or a machine programmed to behave in a certain way. This distinction is important, since it is only interacting system users which may be 'profiled' by profiling means or represented by an agent. Items may, for instance, be classified but, since they do not exhibit behaviour, they may not be profiled.

In a second embodiment, an active information system is provided which creates a connection between a provider or potential provider of an item such as a service or a product and a consumer or potential consumer of the item. The active information system comprises:

- inferring means which autonomously infer information concerning users (comprising consumers, providers and consumer/providers) for each particular user by monitoring a plurality of interactions which each particular user has with the information system;

- memory which stores the information concerning users of the system;

- matching means which search for specific patterns in the information stored in the memory means for different users; and

- communication means which communicate information concerning patterns found by the matching means to the users whose stored information was found by the matching means to form part of a specific pattern.

The information concerning users may be automatically classified in a classification system and the memory may store the information concerning users in the form of said classification system. The information concerning users may be inferred by monitoring the interactions of the user with the system which are initiated by the user or by monitoring the interactions of the system with the user which are initiated by the system, though the former is preferable .

In a third embodiment, an information system is provided which comprises a plurality of entities which communicate via a network wherein each entity is one of the following:

- a human system user; or

- a non-human system user; or

- an automatic information seeker acting on behalf of a human or non-human system user; or

- an autonomous information seeker acting on behalf of an automatic information seeker.

The interactions which take place between entities each fall into a particular category such as :

- sending information in specified areas to another entity on a regular basis ('regular newsfeed' ) ; or

- sending information in specified areas to another entity upon such information becoming available ('alert'); or

- storing information concerning an entity ('store'); or

- providing appropriate taxonomy for a specific request to another entity ('translation'); or

- requests or queries concerning any of the above; or

- providing assistance with incomplete requests or queries, i.e. informing the entity which made a request or query of the appropriate format for or the required additional information required for a particular request or query which has been incorrectly or incompletely formulated.

The autonomous information seekers comprise:

- first classifying means for classifying information received in store requests ('first store request information');

- first classified storage means for storing first store request information received from automatic information seekers;

- taxonomy storage means for storing taxonomy related to each sub-section of the classification system used by the classifying means.

The automatic information seekers comprise:

- second classifying means for classifying information received in store requests ('second store request information' ) using the same classification system as that of the first classifying means;

- second classified storage means for storing second store request information received from human and non-human system users ;

The network is arranged such that:

- human and non-human system users may only interact either with other human and non-human system users or with automatic information seekers;

- automatic information seekers may interact with any other entity; and - autonomous information seekers may only interact with automatic information seekers .

In a fourth embodiment, a chamber of commerce information system is provided for serving a plurality of users. The system comprises:

- a plurality of interaction means with which users interact and which monitor and store user-interaction-data concerning the interactions which take place;

- at least one chamber of commerce which automatically interacts with the plurality of interaction means and which monitors and stores interaction-means-interaction-data concerning the interactions which take place;

Each chamber of commerce automatically searches for specific patterns in the stored interaction-means-interaction-data and communicates information concerning any such patterns which are found to the interaction means which were involved in the relevant interactions .

The user-interaction-data which is retained may include data which indicates any of the type of interaction (whether the user was supplying or consuming or intending to supply or intending to consume) , the level of interest of the user, the type of information in an accessed item, the frequency of interaction, what item the user had accessed previously and what item the user accesses subsequently.

A further level of chambers of commerce may also be provided - effectively forming a federation of chambers of commerce. Chambers of commerce in a federation interact with other chambers of commerce within the federation in an analogous way as a chamber of commerce interacts with an interaction means in a system which has no federations . The system may be extended in this way as much as is desired/useful, i.e. federations of chambers of commerce may be grouped in turn to form further federations of federations .

Each chamber of commerce in a federation may specialise in a particular domain. Such a domain may be defined in terms of, for instance, a type of item (in line with the particular classification system used) or geographical locations of users or geographical location of items .

A classification scheme may be used which involves a plurality of different schemes such as one for services and a different one for needs. Preferably, the classification scheme is not explicitly defined, but exists implicitly as a result of the autonomous activity which takes place.

The interaction means may use some form of software agent for determining the user-interaction-data.

In a fifth embodiment, an information storage system is provided for use by users wishing to retrieve information relevant to them comprising:

- service-classification means for automatically classifying and storing information regarding services offered by users which information is input into the information storage system by users;

- classified-service storage means for storing classified services ;

- needs-classification means for automatically classifying and storing information regarding the needs of a user which information is input into the information storage system by users ;

- classified-needs storage means for storing classified needs; - match-making means which automatically search in the classified service storage means and in the classified needs storage means for matches between users needs and services offered and which automatically present relevant information to users;

The information storage system further comprises:

- first storage means for storing first-level meta-data relating to the interactions which a user has with the information storage system;

- second storage means for storing second-level meta-data relating to interactions which the match-making means has with the classified service storage means and the classified needs storage means.

The match-making means automatically searches for matches, without there having been a direct request from a user, on the basis of a programmed match-making routine and using the first-level and second-level meta-data.

In a sixth embodiment, an interaction-based system is provided for use by a plurality of system users comprising:

a plurality of primary interaction means with which system users exchange information, whereby each system user interacts with a distinct primary interaction means and the primary interaction means monitors the interactions which take place between a system user and a primary interaction means;

primary interaction storage means associated with each primary interaction means in which a primary interaction means stores information regarding interactions which have taken place; at least one secondary interaction means with which the plurality of primary interaction means exchange information and which monitors the interactions which take place between primary interaction means and secondary interaction means;

secondary interaction storage means associated with each secondary interaction storage means in which a secondary interaction means stores information regarding interactions which have taken place;

Each secondary interaction means is arranged to search for specific patterns of interactions and to send information regarding such patterns to primary interaction means which were involved in interactions forming said pattern.

A third (and further) levels of interaction means and interaction storage means may also be provided. These subsequent levels of interaction means and interaction storage means act in an analogous manner with the interaction means and interaction storage means which are one level down from them as the second interaction means and interaction storage means act vis-a-vis the first interaction means and interaction storage means .

Each of the primary interaction means may be realised in the form of a software agent .

Each such agent may be programmed in such a way that it has predetermined long-term objectives which it is to attempt to achieve. The agent then, by programme control, derives shorter-term goals which it needs to achieve in order to move towards its predetermined long-term objectives and subsequently formulates plans of action for achieving the shorter-term goals . The actions of the agent are then carried out in line with these plans . The actions which the agent carries out are in the form of interactions with other agents and/or with secondary interaction means. In a seventh embodiment, an active information system is provided for collecting information from a plurality of users and presenting to a particular user information which is of interest to that particular user comprising:

- a plurality of terminal means with which a plurality of users input and/or extract information;

- classified storage means in which information items which have been input by users are stored under a classification scheme;

- a plurality of agents, each of which is either directly or indirectly associated with a particular user.

Each agent comprises :

- user's interest determining means comprising instructions for causing a processing apparatus to perform a method of determining a user's interest in an information item displayed to the user on the user's terminal means;

- model-building means for building a set of models comprising:

- a self-model which describes the agent in terms of its current objectives, goals and plans;

- an others-model which describes other agents which the agent knows abouthich the agent is associated; and

- a world-model which describes application-specific general principles for generating such goals and plans and may also contain information concerning the type of items which the agent possesses and the communications which the agent has sent and received. The world-model may also describe a classification structure. - selective information exchanging means which exchange information to and/or from selected other agents, wherein the selected other agents are selected on the basis of partial or substantial matches between the contents of its models, i.e. matches between descriptions in the plans of the agent's self-model and descriptions in its others-model and/or world-model .

The others-model is automatically built to contain information indicating the capabilities of other agents, for example, identifying them as possible providers of a certain type of resource .

The self-model is automatically built to contain information on the objectives and policies of the agent which have been derived both from automatic analysis of the user's interests and from objectives and policies which are input directly by the user.

The self-model also contains information on the goals and plans of the agent which have been derived both from automatic analysis of the agent's objectives and policies and from goals and plans which are input directly by the user.

Each agent automatically searches for other agents with self- models which substantially or partially match the first agent ' s self-model .

Each agent automatically builds its others-model on the basis of the other agents which are found when automatically searching for other agents with self-models which substantially or partially match the first agent's self-model.

Each agent can display its self-model and others-model to the user via the user's terminal means. Each agent can display information items associated with those other agents on the basis of which said others-model was built.

The model-building means may also build a world-model which characterises the domain in which the agent is operating. In this case, each agent automatically builds such a world-model on the basis of information which the agent obtains from (i) interaction with other agents and (ii) interaction with other system resources .

The system may also have automatic classifying means which classifies information items into the classification scheme. Alternatively the classification scheme may be implicit in the functioning of the system.

Such an automatic classifying means might classify information items based on any of the following:

- keyword searches in the information item;

- inferences on the content of the information item;

- accessing data within an information item which classifies that information item under a different classification scheme and using classification translating means to convert between classifications;

- a request to the user of the active information system who inputs the information item to indicate relevant classifications;

- a request to the user of the active information system who inputs the information item to indicate relevant keywords .

Such a classification scheme might be such that: - information items relating to similar subject-matter as one another are classified into the same classification section;

- classification sections relating to similar subject-matter as one another are associated with one another;

- in addition, new classification sections may be formed by dividing an existing classification section.

Upon input of an information item for which no classification is found by such a classifying means, the classifying means might request the user of the active information system who inputs the information item to indicate:

- keywords of associated classifications (e,g, for "apple", the user should indicate "orange", "banana" etc.)

- a suitable name for a new classification section

The classifying means may then subsequently search for classification sections relating to the associated classifications and then create new classification sections.

Information items may each be classified in a plurality of different classification sections .

A chamber of commerce may also provide a channel for item providers to provide information to potential consumers of items on how to procure and/or consume an item (or the resource to which the item refers) . This is particularly useful in circumstances where a new type of item is being (or is intended to be) provided.

A system according to the invention may be used in analysing the interactions which are taking place and thus give information about statistical trends in the actions of system users .

Claims

Claims
1. An electronic communications system for use by system users who interact with the system, which electronic communications system comprises:
- profiling means for creating separate system user profiles for each of said system users based on monitoring a plurality of interactions which each said user has with the electronic communications system, whereby a plurality of system user profiles are created, each of which indicates at least one system user interest for the system user with which it is associated; and
- at least one virtual chamber of commerce which comprises :
- match-discovering means which actively search for matched groups of system user profiles of different system users wherein all the system user profiles in such a matched group have at least one system user interest in common; and
- match-making means which actively create communication links between system users whose system user profiles form part of a matched group.
2. An electronic communications system comprising:
- a plurality of virtual agents each of which acts on behalf of a particular system user or another virtual agent ; and
- a virtual chamber of commerce which actively creates communications links between selected groups of virtual agents .
PCT/GB1999/001614 1998-05-22 1999-05-21 Electronic communications system WO1999062012A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

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EP98304090 1998-05-22

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