Bot Meets Portal

ActiveBuddy's instant messaging bots are finding their way out of the Buddy List and into the corporate portal, thanks to new work in connection with Lotus WebSphere.
ActiveBuddy's instant messaging bots are finding their way out of the Buddy List and into the corporate portal.

Bots, or interactive agents, are applications with which users interact through text-based, natural language interfaces. So far, most of the company's bots have been accessible via instant messaging.

The key to bringing those bots to another medium is a "portlet," an add-on module for IBM Lotus's WebSphere. The module enables enterprise developers to link their portal to bots created with ActiveBuddy's BuddyScript and running on the firm's Buddy Server.

Ideally, the portlet would be used in creating interactive agents that can provide services to enterprise users via Web-based chat -- such as a bot specializing in searching corporate directory information, based on a user's natural-language query. Similarly, adding a bot to an externally facing Web site offers companies a means of inexpensively fielding customer questions.

"We are pleased that ActiveBuddy has elected to provide portlets for WebSphere Portal," said Larry Bowden, vice president of portal and Lotus products for IBM. "The enablement of ActiveBuddy-powered interactive agents for WebSphere Portal provides our users with a broader, more powerful experience."

The WebSphere Portlet is available for free, through IBM's Web-based WebSphere Portal Catalog -- an online portlet repository.

"Our customers demand a secure, convenient way to make their interactive agent applications available to all employees, regardless of their computing environments," said Pierre Berkaloff, ActiveBuddy vice president of engineering. "The BuddyScript WebSphere Portlet allows our customers to accelerate the deployment of self-service applications through their corporate portals."

To promote its interactive agents to WebSphere Portal clients, ActiveBuddy is offering the portlet with built-in demonstration versions of its pre-built HR Agent and Corporate411 bots -- which interface with human resources databases and corporate directories, respectively.

The effort speaks to the growing convergence of instant messaging and Web portals.

Microsoft is throwing sizable resources behind the launch of its Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, which will integrate with enterprise instant messaging provided by its Office Live Communications Server (formerly known as "Real-Time Communications Server," itself formerly known as "Greenwich.)

Linking the two servers allows information workers working in a portal to see the teammates' presence and availability, and to initiate instant collaboration sessions from within the portal environment.

In January, Lotus showcased improvements to its IBM WebSphere Portal Enable's Extend module. The enhancement added new support for collaborative tools to corporate portals -- such as support for presence-enabled corporate directories, instant messaging and Web conferences. Presence information is derived from IBM's flagship enterprise IM product, Lotus Instant Messaging (which, in another case of corporate rebranding, had at the time been known as Sametime.)

One proposed use of the technology is a presence-enabled org chart, searchable by users looking to find available peers with whom to share information.

Christopher Saunders is managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com.






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