Agent – a computer program working independently
An agent is also called a software agent or softbot. It is a name for a computer program that works more or less independently. When programming the agent, the programmer determines how the agent should react to which type of event or status. The computer program then works independently based on its tasks. What distinguishes the agent from simple software is that it “learns” from its activity in order to be able to perform even better in the future. It’s a type of artificial intelligence.
Properties of an agent
An agent can be recognized by various characteristics. It performs its tasks on its own initiative and reacts to what happens in its environment. Intervention on the part of the user is not required. It is possible that its own settings are automatically adjusted when there are changes in the environment. The software analyzes decisions made earlier and infers what will happen in the future. In this way, an agent learns to perform its task even more efficiently, faster or better. In addition, agents are often able to exchange information and communicate with other agents. Not every agent has to fulfill all these characteristics.
Tasks of software agents
A software agent is always used when recurring tasks are to be performed automatically. The typical representative of this software category is the search engine robot (“bot”, also spider or crawler), which tirelessly scours the Internet for new content, indexes it and in turn makes it available to interested readers searching for information via a search engine. A filter agent filters data from a given database according to the user’s filter criteria and prepares it. A distinction is also made between desktop, reminder and product agents.
Agents in e-commerce
The agent plays an important role in e-commerce in supporting the customer while shopping on the Internet. For example, Internet users can use price agents that collect information on products, features and prices from a wide range of online stores and process it clearly and comparably in tables. This makes it easier to select the lowest-priced offer. This increases price transparency for the customer and more or less forces retailers to adjust their prices to the market if they want to remain competitive. Merchants in e-commerce can also use an agent to their advantage. For this purpose, they can, for example, commission the agent to collect customer data and observe their buying behavior. As a result, agents can create a shopping profile for each shopper, enabling, for example, even more targeted advertising. Advertising agents are also helpful here, as their in-depth analysis of product and purchase data enables them to develop an individual advertising strategy. This can reduce marketing costs.
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