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CAWICOMS (Customer-Adaptive Web Interface for the Configuration of Products and Services with Multiple Suppliers) is a project founded by the European Union within the "Information Society Technology" Programme of the V Framework. It started July 1st 2000 and will end October 31st 2002.

The CAWICOMS project involves the following international partners: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, GmbH (DFKI), British Telecommunications plc., ILOG SA, Siemens AG, Telecom Italia S.p.A., University of Klagenfurt, University of Torino.

Focus of this project is to enable businesses to market complex customizable products and services by the new ways of electronic commerce. CAWICOMS will develop the technology for:

  • A new generation of configurators that will be able to deal simultaneously with multiple suppliers over a network; to interact with other configuration systems as well as with component catalogues; and to deal with different interaction styles and levels, depending on the customer.

  • Web-based human computer interaction that will be able to identify the skill-level, preferences, and needs of the customer.

Role of the Intelligent User Interfaces group in CAWICOMS

Within the CAWICOMS project, the working unity of the Dipartimento di Informatica of the University of Torino (UTO) focuses its activity on the development of personalisation strategies exploited by the CAWICOMS Frontend, in order to customise the interaction with the user of configuration systems.

Several aspects of the interaction can be personalised: the layout of the interface, the amount of information to be displayed and the type of questions asked during the configuration of the product/service.

The first phase of the project will focus on the last aspect, which strongly depends on the user's knowledge level and interests, and is critical to the usability of the configuration system. The ultimate goal is to carry on the configuration process while limiting the number of questions asked to the user and avoiding questions which the user might not be able to answer.

The IP-VPN application domain

As the user interface is dynamically generated during the interaction, the level of detail addressed during the configuration process will be continuously adapted to the most recent hypotheses about her/his knowledgeability and interests, therefore gaining an extremely reactive adaptation to the user's needs.

The generation of personalized user interfaces is performed by the CAWICOMS Frontend. The two main tasks performed by the Frontend are:

  • the acquisition of the information for the configuration process (by asking the user, or by predicting suitable values, on the basis of the user's knowledgeability and estimated preferences);

  • the presentation of the (possibly partial) solutions produced by the Backend to the user.

Both tasks can be personalised by exploiting specific strategies, given the information stored in the user model. In order to do that, the Frontend has to carry on the following activities:

The telecommunication switches application domain
  1. a user modeling activity, aimed to estimate the customer's interests and knowledge level, on the basis of her/his behavior during the interaction with the system;

  2. a conversion activity, aimed to translate (back and forth) the information coming from the Backend (which reasons in terms of configuration problems) into concepts understandable to users, i.e., not strictly related to the management con constraints and configuration problems, but more related to an external (though, possibly very technical) description of the product/service to be configured;

  3. a personalization activity, necessary to select the suitable interaction steps, given the problem at hand and the characteristics (expertise, interests) of the individual customer;

  4. a dynamic user interface generation activity, as the information presented on the user's screen must be integrated "on the fly", step by step during the configuration process.

The user inputs and the defaults suggested by the Frontend are handed to the Backend and the distributed problem solving mechanism is initiated. After the calculation of results - that are passed back using the generic data exchange mechanism - these results are also presented to the user in a personalized way, i.e., for instance the technical details are omitted.

   CAWICOMS Project Web site

For more information about this project, please contact
Giovanna Petrone
, Anna Goy, Liliana Ardissono

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