Brussels, 24 Jan 2006
With the internet and developments in information technology come great opportunities to interact and transact. But what happens when on-line parties are less than happy about their experience? Thanks to successive EU-funded projects a groundbreaking electronic arbitration system, called e-Dispute©, is being readied for the marketplace.
A prototype of e-Dispute© has already been developed by partners in EU-funded Information Society Technologies projects. The prototype provides fast on-line arbitration, mediation and conciliation services. Disputing parties can be anywhere in the world and select from a range of languages to work in. They can send messages securely and explain their preferences to an arbitrator.
"Robot agents digest all the information and make proposals to the parties," Jacques Gouimenou, managing director of project partner Tiga Technologies, told IST Results. "Once the arbitrator is agreed upon, the robot agent finds a suitable 'meeting' date for everybody." Meetings are supported via videoconference and chat room facilities. "Our system reduces delays and costs. It is also very secure," he adds.
To evaluate the prototype arbitration system with potential customers, Gouimenou won funding from the European Commission's eTEN Programme for the e-Dispute© project. The technology was voted the eTEN project of the month in December 2005. And the platform has been put through its paces at the European Court of Arbitration and the Emilia-Romagna Chamber of Commerce. Further trials are scheduled at several UK hospitals to assist with claim resolution, the partners told IST Results.
The next step for the technology is to roll it out. For this, finance and/or partners are needed. "We are now looking for €1.5-2 million investment to set up a company dedicated to the promotion and commercialisation of the e-Dispute© system," explains Gouimenou. He predicts that there is a significant market for this sort of technology and service.
The story to date… In the late 1990s, the French firm Tiga Technologies coordinated an EU ESPRIT programme-funded project, called PRONEL, involving Hugin, Siemens and Schlumberger. The project developed a special data-mining software tool that enabled probabilistic relationships between variables in a dataset to be identified and illustrated in a simple graphical form called a Bayesian network.
"When it finished, we continued working on the subject in co-operation with Schlumberger, providing consultancy," notes Gouimenou. "We also started the IST-funded project e-Arbitration-T, building on the results achieved in PRONEL."
For the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) e-Arbitration-T, the five project partners from Italy and Spain developed an internet-based system to help resolve disputes between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With €860 000 in EU funds, it developed a platform and autonomous agents capable of reasoning based on experience – the more experience it gains, the better its arbitration decisions.
Software developed in PRONEL helped model the relationships and possible outcomes between disputing SMEs mathematically. Together, the results of these projects form the basis of e-Dispute©.