Use Cases

Logistics. Black Pepper have expertise in providing technology solutions to the logistics domainIn the commodity trading/logistics industry the business activities are typically split into buying, selling and logistics, separating the purchase of materials from their sale and transportation. The aim is to optimise the matching between the components: sourcing raw materials, refining them, selecting appropriate transport methods, routes, and storage. An example transaction might be the delivery of 100 tonnes of copper to a manufacturing plant, which first must be purchased as ore from a mine, refined through a smelter, formed, and delivered to the customer. Each of these stages could be outsourced or performed using in-house assets. Contracts typically express features such as quality (e.g. 99% purity) and have a tolerance (e.g. 100 tonnes +-2%), with payment for what is actually received (potentially after remediation if, for example, the purity is found to be lower than specified). The purchase of materials is typically financed, using the material itself as collateral. Shipping delays potentially have very large costs, not only in terms of penalty payments to customers, but also in terms of extra interest, fees for additional warehouse time, or fines for missing pre-arranged slots for transshipment. The key to a successful business is minimising and managing the risk across the various stages, from extraction of raw material to delivery of refined product to a customer. Therefore, accurate assessment of reputation is crucial, and the ability to appropriately account for and reason about mitigating circumstances is essential.

On-demand Transport. As investigated by the Agent-Based Computing for Intelligent Transportation Systems group at the Czech Technical University in Prague, the popularity of the market-based approach for on-demand transport services (e.g. adopted by Uber, and also other local transport services such as Lyftago in Prague) has grown rapidly over only a few years. Within this approach, a passenger requests a transport service from a provider, which in turn communicates with potential drivers (bidding for the service), and selects a suitable match accounting for passenger and driver preferences and requirements. Specifically, information and financial exchanges among the three parties are conducted via a multi-stage process: transport request (passenger-provider); driver selection and commission (driver-provider); passenger pricing (provider-passenger); passenger transport (driver-passenger); and driver payment (provider-driver). Passengers are typically interested in truthful providers and drivers, fair prices, on-time driver arrival, safety, car quality, etc. Similarly, when bidding for the service, criteria of interest to drivers include truthfulness of the provider and the passenger, payment (on time and in appropriate amount), passenger punctuality, passenger behaviour, etc. Assessing the reputation of the three parties with respect to such aspects is thus essential to decrease risk and increase satisfaction for both passengers and drivers. Accounting for and reasoning about mitigating circumstances is especially important to achieve accurate and fair assessments. For example, a passenger or a driver should not be penalised for lateness if it is due to events beyond their control, e.g. a late flight or an unexpected bad weather, respectively. Likewise, a low reputation of a provider due to the failure of a driver may not be appropriate if the provider is no longer dealing with this driver.

Car Leasing. After an accident where a vehicle is damaged, an insurance company recommends a body-shop to a policy holder for repairing it, and a courtesy car may then be provided as short-term replacement. The processing of the courtesy car is performed by the leasing company, who provide year-long leases of cars to body-shops for this purpose. This sub-provision relationship is disclosed, but policy holders have little say in general over which body-shop or leasing company they interact with as body-shops are chosen by the insurance company and courtesy cars are selected by body-shops. A small number of body-shops charge damage of courtesy cars and fines to the policy holder through the car leasing company. These extra charges incur a handling fee which although agreed prior to the courtesy period can often aggravate customers into providing unwarranted negative feedback, which could be vindicated if the context was known. Reputation of the car leasing company can be provided by policy holders and body-shops, and similarly the reputation of body-shops from policy holders and insurance companies. Currently a net promoter score for the leasing company is used as a form of reputation, calculated via a yearly questionnaire asking body-shops if they would use or recommend the service and is reported as a ratio for use in promotional material when attracting new clients. There are other forms of reputation available, which may be computed from data recorded during all interactions between the car leasing company, body-shop, insurance company and policy holder. It is thought that timeliness, convenience, and cost have main influence in the car leasing reputation, although a more detailed questionnaire is required to further investigate this. A car leasing company with high reputation will enhance the reputation of a body-shop that uses its services, and the reputation of both will influence the choices of body-shops that insurance companies recommend.