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The development of software agents is a recent trend in both distributed computing research and geographic information science (GIScience). Software agents can help users access distributed data objects and programs on heterogeneous geographic information systems (GIS) platforms by interpreting, filtering, and converting information automatically. This project aims to facilitate the understanding of the role of software agents in distributed geographic information services (GIServices) and introduce the research of software agents to the GIScience community. 

This page will present a introduction to the project, including:

  • Project's objectives.
  • Project's tasks.
    1) Design of geoagent model and geoagent communication protocol.
    2)  Development of a prototype for software agents.
    3)  Evaluation of the prototype model by implementation of real geodata and GIS operations. 

For further understanding the basic information of GIS and agent, please refer to the relevant pages.


 

Objectives of the Project Research

This research will design a software agent communication mechanism to facilitate the integration of heterogeneous geospatial data, GIS programs, and modeling procedures in distributed network environment. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) will be used to design a software agent model. A geoagent communication protocol (GCP) will be developed by using Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Knowledge Query and Manipulation Language (KQML) to examine the communication requirements of distributed GIServices. A prototype will be developed on two commercial GIS software packages, ARC/INFO and ArcIMS. For further background information, please refer to the Agent and GIS pages. 

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Tasks of the Project Research 

Task 1: The design of software agent model and geoagent communication protocol (GCP) for distributed GIScience

The design of software agent model will include the formalization of agent object classes, interactions and responsibility for different GIS tasks, such as the communications among different machines, the integratiion of GIS components, and the searching for requested geodata objects, etc. This research will focus on the design of object classes of software agent model by using the Unified Modeling Language to design the object model for software agents. Three class objects of software agents, geodata agents, component agents, and machine agents, for distributed GIServices will be developed and specified based on their functionality. The adoption of GCP will facilitate the communication between software agents with heteogeneous distributed databases and GIS components in dynamic network environment. GCP development will adopt the concepts and framework of KQML to the development of GIService applications. Four types of agent communication mechanisms, agent-to-agent, agent-to-database, agent-to-program, and agent-to-machine will be considered. Each type of agent communication will also include two sub-types of communication approach, local and remote.

Task 2: The development of a prototype for software agents by customizing current GIS packages, ARC/INFO and ArcIMS

In order to test the feasibility of software agent model and GCP, this research will develop a prototype by adopting current available GIS software and technology. Two GIS software packages, ARC/INFO and ArcIMS will be customized taking advantage their current network communication architecture. ArcIMS provides a ready-to-use, low-level network communication capability, which can be utilized directly for GCP and software agent model. ARC/INFO's GIS functions can be customized by its ArcObject development tools, to create a remote invocation method for GIS functions and database connectivity. The advantages of adopting these two GIS commercial packages are to allow this research to focus on high-level, semantic design and application services instead of spending too much effort on low-level network programming and client-server GIS functions.

Task 3: The evaluation of the prototype model by conducting several GIS scenarios with the actual implementation of real geodata and GIS operations. 

The prototype of software agent model and GCP will be applied to several hypothetical GIS scenarios, such as spatial decision support systems, data mining, and mobile device integration with actual data implementation and GIS operations. The design of scenarios will focus on such issues as distributed GIS procedures, automatic data conversion, the efficient use of computing resources, cross-platform applications, real-time data update. 

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Department of Geography, San Diego State University