Use Cases

These use cases are inspired by the Internet of Things and the Smart City concept, where networks of thousands (or more) devices and software agents are used to solve problems and facilitate urban living.

Smart Parking and Traffic Management
Parking and traffic management in modern cities is inherently complex.  The needs of individual drivers may be simple - find a parking spot in a convenient location - but both parking spaces and roads are limited resources, and so the provision of parking spaces in towns and cities is a complex resource management issue. There is a finite number of parking spaces, provided by public and private organisations, and a varying number of drivers requiring a space. There are also wider issues of traffic management, where a local authority might wish to redirect traffic to reduce pollution or prevent congestion. Many of the necessary elements of ‘smart parking’ already exist — parking space sensors can give real-time usage information, parking fees can be paid online, and apps are available to direct drivers to the nearest spaces, and give pricing information.

Dynamic pricing and provision of parking can enforce useful norms and be used beyond simple maximisation of revenue. For example, to ease congestion in one area parking could be made cheaper in another. The entity measuring the effectiveness of the emergent norms and performing the engineering would be the car park owners or the local authorities.

Lingua Machina
In the Internet of Things, there will be many diverse “things” using different standards, protocols and ontologies, with little, if any, central control to enforce behaviour. They will have heterogeneous creators and needs, but if the full potential of the IoT is to be realised then subsets of these devices will have to communicate and work together. For this a common language is required.

Language can be viewed as a set of norms. Words have meaning because the users of the language agree that they have meaning; new words that are found to be useful by a population thrive and become commonplace, while words that are not used wither and become archaic (or change in meaning). Historically, where different people conducted business without a common language it was common for a pidgin language to develop, sharing elements of other languages (e.g. Mediterranean Lingua Franca). In the same way, different groups of things could develop a lingua machina from their own ontologies and protocols so they can work together. 

Social Network Generation 
In the Internet of Things, autonomous devices must build networks of trusted contacts to perform tasks. Network links can be built up from norms — an agent may grant permissions for other agents to communicate with them, or may have obligations to respond in a timely fashion. Agents that are proven to be untrustworthy may be ostracised by prohibition norms, forbidding other agents to help them. These network norms could be built up over time as the agent societies discover which are effective at increasing overall well-being.

To move beyond a simple trust and reputation scenario, the agents (or the society as a whole) could evaluate the networks along other dimensions, such as efficiency, service load balancing, and the need to allow new entrants to join the society.