Artificial intelligence (AI) software can help transform Web sites from being merely functional into entities that respond in a dynamic manner to user input, according to Dennis Lee, chief technology officer of software developer Elipva. The Singapore-based company is keen to promote its technology to Web site developers because, said Lee, a site with AI capabilities gives users a better experience and therefore increases use of the site. "Many electronic marketplaces can't get their transaction volumes up and they should ask themselves why," he said at the Internet World conference here Thursday. "Sites need to help humans interact and form a relationship with them, not just be HTML and fancy graphics." To embed intelligence in e-business applications, Lee proposed that companies use applications which create smart mobile software agents. These agents autonomously conduct tasks in an open Web environment, such as information retrieval, monitoring, or notification of changes. Agents are designed to travel from any software platform to another, such as from a mobile phone to an enterprise Internet database, to perform their tasks. Using agents can create a "brain behind the portal", according to Lee. "Software for Web sites today is functional, predictable and procedural," he said. "It needs to have mobility, intelligence and autonomy." Some auction Web sites use agents in an extensive way. Each registered user is assigned a service agent, which can be customized as to price range and goods required. This agent circulates around the site, negotiating with shop agents belonging to the site, or individual merchants, trying to make deals. Another example cited by Lee is for agents assigned to individual company employees which can schedule meetings by examining each employee's personal calendar and finding a time when everyone is free. The use of agents in ecommerce is spreading, with initiatives from companies such as IBM Corp. and its Aglet technology, Elipva and Tryllian BV, offering kits for end users to create their own agent-based Web environments. Standards such as Mobile Agent System Interoperability Facility (MASIF) and Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents (FIPA) have been developed to enable collaboration between agents developed by different vendors. But Asia risks falling behind due to its relative lack of interest in AI, according to Lee. "The situation here is pretty bad, there's basically no AI research going on except in Japan, which is forward-looking."