"Success in the Info Age [1]  means learning to use technology to individualise and personalise services and products. In other words, technology which increases the human touch will succeed. Technology which plunges humankind deeper into machine-like efficiency will fail."
from "Living in real time ..." in [LEWI95]


Information service providers (but the same goes for just about any company or organisation offering services on the Internet) will soon have to adjust to the change as described in the previous paragraph. Soon a situation will emerge where there are so many suppliers offering seemingly identical products and/or services, that users (i.e. buyers, consumers, etc.) will need to be attracted by other means than sharp prices or nice advertisements. It has every appearance that delivered services (such as product information, user support, the availability of some kind of help desk, etcetera) will be that decisive factor.
Agents can be used to offer individualised services/information (i.e. in the form that is suitable for a specific user), but also to provide these at any time that is suitable for the user (regardless of his location). They can be used for such uses as have been described in section 6.2 and 6.3, and for various functions in middle layer activities.

Here are a few examples of such possible future services:
Agents can be used to deliver tailor-made (personalised) services, e.g. (in case of the government) help a person to find the right juridical information about some juridical problem he or she has, and present it in the most comprehensive way (based on information provided by the user agent);
Publishers can use agents as a tool to pre-select information (such as news articles) for users. Because of their experience and authority, groups of users will keep on relying on publishers to pre-select information, just like they do now for the publication of magazines and professional literature (probably even regardless of whether or not a model like the three layer model is used on the Internet);
Small/individual suppliers (such as a real-estate agent) can use agents to provide personalised information about their service(s) or product(s), and can save money as they do not have to send out printed brochures which can only provide generic information.


No matter what will be offered in the future, it is vitally important that - especially developers of agents and agent-based applications - be real "ambassadors" for agents, in that they give good, reliable information about agents: they should give a realistic representation of the possibilities of the agent-technique to prevent overoptimistic expectations of (potential) users of agents. Neither users, nor suppliers, nor developers would have any avail of that.

[1] i.e. in the information society. The "Info Age" denotes the period following the current "Post-Industrial Age", and will be a period where information is the most important good.

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"Intelligent Software Agents on the Internet" - by Björn Hermans