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E-Commerce of bread making equipment based on an expert system, distributed agents and virtual reality (e-breadmaking)

Final Report Summary - E-BREADMAKING (E-commerce of bread making equipment based on an expert system, distributed agents and virtual reality)

From a scientific point of view, the goal of the E-BREADMAKING project has been to exploit the commercial potential of intelligent web based systems. The scientific challenge lied in the application of intelligent web oriented software such as rule based system and fuzzy logic to cover the real need for optimising equipment configurations within a sector where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are only offering partial solutions within the production chain and where the customer lacks the breadth of knowledge required to address the complexity of selecting optimal configurations in the expanding market of bread making.

The technical achievements of this project lie in the development, verification and validation of a web-based intelligent system that will apply knowledge and intelligent reasoning features to arrive at an e-commerce application to assist potential clients in the selection of bread-making processes and which helps them in the configuration of customised installations. Using this system, final clients or vendors are able to design, evaluate and order equipment for a specific installation. The system thus requires fundamental installation information: production levels, bread format, local climatic conditions, layout restrictions, plant or room dimensions, etc. and generates a virtual configuration that is analysed by the client in order to determine its suitability. An adaptive and intelligent system such as the one proposed, with a flexible user interface, has covered key areas with the following goals:
- to carry out market requirements research to identify the needs, technological level, foreseen benefits, etc. of potential users of the technology, as well as specifications of existing bread-making equipment.
- to gather information and knowledge on the bread-making processes and equipment which will be used by the applications, including interactions of raw materials, process technology and machinery
- to develop an intelligent web-based system on top of existing standards, which ensures that business to business (B2B) e-commerce is carried out in an open and effective way; development of a intelligent system will be required for this application;
- to develop a virtual reality (VR) environment in which the client can evaluate the suitability of the designed installation before ordering.

Special attention is given to solving one of the major inhibitors of VRML e-commerce solutions today, namely bandwidth. Envisaged solutions include the support of 2-D top view and auto-pilot view.

The social objectives were to enhance selling capabilities of equipment producers, reducing the need to have a large number of personnel specialised in the design of installations, to facilitate the supply of specialised equipment to produce regional products throughout the EU and to propose an e-commerce industry standard for bread-making equipment manufacturers, which can be easily transferred to other related sectors. Furthermore, it increases and promote specialised products in the bakery industry in a globalise market.

The evolution of the project has been correct, but some changes have been carried out during the project development. In this way, a more convenient object-oriented approach (instead multi-agent approach) has been adopted, due to the fact that the desired system best fits in the object oriented approach. Afterwards, some tasks were badly scheduled, and then conveniently updated. The rest of the project has been developed with no major incidents and has been developed in time.

Once finished, as results of the project, the E-BREADMAKING system for machinery selection is developed. Once the user introduces his needs and characteristics, the system selects the best machinery available in the data bases needed for the indicated bread production. After the initial selection, E-BREADMAKING includes a VR toolkit for proper machinery plant situation. Integration has been proved by means of generated XML files.

This cooperative research project contributes to the policy objectives of the sixth framework programme with regard to SMEs, and in particular: supports SME proposers in responding to the need for continuous innovation and technological adaptations, a need which has been accentuated due to the expansion of the European bakery internal market and the intensification of competition; and facilitates cooperative relations in research activities between SMEs, research institutions and