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A FIPA-compliant Framework for Integrating Rule Engines into Software Agents for Supporting Communication and Collaboration in a Multiagent Platform
Production rules have been traditionally considered a good knowledge representation formalism for creating expert systems, and also as a good mechanism for building intelligence within software agents due to the flexibility of their declarative knowledge representation. But the use of rules and rule engines for implementing behaviors inside agents in the context of a multiagent environment has a number of challenges if one wants to adhere and preserve the defining characteristics of agency and support the kind of communication and collaboration mechanisms needed by multiagent systems. This paper describes a framework, and its implementation, for the integration of production rules reasoning mechanisms inside software agents in the context of a multiagent platform, preserving the defining characteristics of agency and accomplishing the well stablished FIPA standards for agent interaction. The implementation has been accomplished by using either CLIPS or Jess as the rule engine, but it can be extended to other formalisms. JADE was chosen as the multiagent platform for developing and testing the solution. The proposed framework includes the uncoupled integration of the rule inference engine into the agent and the adherence to FIPA specifications about using protocols and communication processes. The resulting framework can be used to adapt legacy expert systems whose functionality can be divided to be performed by separate agents or to build new, distributed intelligent systems exploiting the capacities of a multiagent platform at different levels. In order to show the validity of the approach, a functional test environment was built and is available for downloading.