Intelligent & Automated Agents: An Introduction
The idea of an automated agent is not new (it's important to note that quite often the term "agent" is deemed as a synonym for another term: "bot", we will elaborate on the differences between agents and bots later in this article). Elements of agent/bot like capabilities are visible in software we use in our daily work lives. If you have ever set up a job search agent on a popular job-site like HotJobs or ever used the alert feature on the Yahoo or other instant messengers then you have been exposed to the concept of agents or bots.
In the "classical" AI sense, an information agent is a computer software that is able to scour multiple and heterogeneous information sources and proactively acquire, semantically understand, process and distribute information and perform other information processing related tasks at the behest and bidding of a specified user.
As mentioned earlier, even though there are similarities between bots and agents, one significant differentiating factor is that the agents are "adaptive" - they are programmed to change their behaviors and deal with a variety of information sources and capable of making semantic distinctions while dealing with/and processing this varied information, whereas, bots are inactive agents or in other words - agents are interactive bots!
Given this background now you could well imagine an automated information agent which relieves you of collecting information from the Internet or from any other specified information source and supplies that information to you in an user-friendly and sliced-and-diced format. SonicBoomerang's Digital Assistant is designed to do just that.
SonicBoomerang: Digital Assistant
Digital Assistant from SonicBoomerang Inc. - a company based in Toronto, Canada - is an interesting example of how intelligent information agent technology is maturing by focusing on obtaining a battery of semantic insights from the information-glut/overload that we now face and delivering this semantically digested information in an easy to use/navigate interface.
A version of the Digital Assistant branded and marketed by CCNMatthews, Canada's leading news distribution and communications services company under the name of Intelli-Watch, offers a bouquet of services which include "corporate intelligence-gathering" and "media monitoring". Its an attempt at providing quantitative and qualitative information on one platform.
Digital Assistant offers variety of information gathering, information management and processing features: you can set up a personal watchlist for companies, news and keywords; you can monitor various online newsgroups and topics of your interests; you can monitor what companies and topics are favored by media; you can track the regular financial information and besides get a statistical sense of Bullish and Bearish Sentiment in the market. And, all of this is made available in a decision-ready format (in the form of tabular and statistically aggregated percentages) with a flexibility of setting up an email alert, in case, you want this digest to be delivered to your inbox.
The most important and the most advanced feature of the Digital Assistant is its attempt to gauge investor sentiment form various online message boards in the form of "Opinion Rating". Various public message boards are scoured to understand what investors are saying about the companies and based on a semantic understanding of these messages, a quantitative Public Opinion index is formed, which tries to give you a feel of the opinion-pulse in the stock markets.
The company is working on adding various interesting features such as a news opinion engine which will - at an an aggregate level - understand what people are saying about company or how the media is profiling a particular company. Other forthcoming features include ability query the digital assistant through your email.
K-Praxis, in order to put the features and promises offered by SonicBoomerang in context, reviewed (and in many cases teste) a well-over 100 product and services, that are attempting to sell/develop similar solutions. K-Praxis thinks that although the Digital Assistant has some pluses in the field of intelligent information agents, this product only covers one small segment of possibilities available in this market space and it seems that several other vendors are perfecting their services - very much similar to SonicBoomerang and converging onto the same space from a different and varying market perspectives.
So despite a number of very interesting features like the Opinion Engine - which, interpreted in the line of the definition of information agents enumerated earlier, showcases the advancement in "adaptive" information agent technologies, SonicBoomerang has a long way to go, and will be facing a stiff competition both in public as well as enterprise space.