How can organisations ensure their procedures and rules are consistent with the latest legislation? IST-project EPOWER's system provides a powerful solution; it analyses legal sources, e.g. rules or legislation, and reduces them to computer-based rules that can be interpreted objectively and checked for consistency and anomalies.
E-POWER, part-funded by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies (IST) programme, has developed a computer-based method and supporting tools that can be used in the whole chain of processes for the creation and execution of laws and business rules. Typical areas of focus are insurance policies, pension regulations and knowledge-based computer systems for the execution of these rules.
Interpreting complex language
The aim has been to create a transparent system using formal models that work with any original knowledge source. Natural language processing and artificial intelligence are used to reduce the effort required to build these formal models, and this reduces maintenance costs and improves uniformity.
Central to the process is the E-POWER workbench which provides a variety of tools. The structuring tool automatically decomposes textual knowledge sources (e.g. legal sources) and builds a navigation structure using the various types of reference usually found in legal texts. The results are compatible with the Metalex XML-based legal framework, and can be thought of as part of a content management system.
Another workbench tool automatically extracts concepts from textual knowledge sources and finally knowledge-based components are generated that represent particular domains of interest. The Valens verification and validation suite checks the consistency of the regulations. The The Mega suite of modeling tools supports the formal model representations.
The transparency of legislation is improved through the support of different levels of interpretation and by the uniform method of processing original knowledge sources. The method can reduce the development time of complex knowledge-intensive systems and products using this knowledge base.
"We will offer the E-POWER system to the market in a kind of open source configuration; this is only fair since it was developed with money from the European taxpayer," says coordinator Tom van Engers. "The system can be used for free, although we may have to make a charge for our distribution costs, and will thus be available to the whole community. The source code will available under specific conditions."
A unique system
The E-POWER approach is unique; no other system covers the same field of expertise. E-POWER aims to make its method and approach the market standard for analysing and modelling legal knowledge sources, and to use them for the development of further products. The method can be applied to any business process where legal sources are created or executed, and is currently being used in a number of areas: government, fiscal, personnel benefits, financial regulations for schools, banking and insurance.
The E-POWER method has been commercialised. Two partners from the consortium have started a company, called Rulewise, putting the E-POWER approach onto the market. The company is working both in the commercial (banks, insurance) and public (national government, government bodies) sectors. A major project recently started at the Dutch ministry of Interior is focused on the harmonization of regulations.
Most of the work is currently focused on the Dutch and Belgian markets. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute is working to open up the German marketplace. Coverage will be extended to further countries depending on how quickly the market grows: France, United Kingdom and Spain are likely candidates.
Positive feedback from current users
"The system is being used by Fortis Bank in Belgium and in the Pensions Administration section of the Dutch Ministry of Finance. The response has been very positive. The insurance division at Fortis Bank is using the E-POWER system to improve their insurance policies, and have already discovered some attention points," comments van Engers. "With these attention points removed, Fortis was able to clarify their policies and to improve their insurance policy."
"There is new Belgian legislation regarding pollution, for example, which has direct impact on household insurance policies and the risk associated with domestic oil tanks," said Van Engers. "The E-POWER system detected several gaps between what was required under the law and the cover provided by the insurance policy. Thanks to the E-POWER method, Fortis were able to revise their insurance policy so that it satisfied the various legal requirements."
"We are already discussing business opportunities with prospective clients including a commercial organizations in The Netherlands, national governments, provinces as well as local municipalities, the German government, while France, the United Kingdom and Spain are likely candidates. The E-POWER methodology has a lot of potential," concluded van Engers.
Tom M. van Engers
BelastingdienstCentrum voor Proces- en Productontwikkeling
Korte Voorhout 7
PO Box 18280
NL-2511 CW The Hague
Source: Based on information from E-POWERS