An agent, or software agent, is a computer program that performs a function automatically for a human user or another program or system.

Terms related to Agent: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Scraping, Data Mining, User Agent, Buyer Agent, Network Agent.

Software agents have several unique properties: they are autonomous, not requiring supervision from another system or user; they can act independently to perform their function; they can react to their environment and adapt; they can supervise and provide information to other programs; they are often self-contained and modular. Agents can also be known as a “bot” and one of the best analogies for a software agent would be an independent hardware robot.

Software agents are often built around artificial intelligence, and display machine learning capabilities. As the next step up from regular computer programs, they are good at completing repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy. These tasks can include locating information, filling in forms, directing customers through particular processes, checking and prioritizing tasks, summarizing information, data mining, surveillance, alerting, analyzing scraped data, and more.

Software agents are often deployed as “Chatbots” — a human-like interactive experience that people can communicate with to find the information they need. Chatbots use a combination of natural language processing, logic, predefined rules, adaptive learning, and help files to deal with user queries and provide context-relevant information.

Agents can also act within computer simulations to control distinct parts of the overall model. This can be very useful in predicting likely outcomes in complex systems.

Software agents can have a significant benefit for an organization, resulting in greater customer satisfaction from chatbots, and improved employee morale from the reduction in the need to perform repetitive, low-value tasks. On the other had, some employees and others may not be comfortable giving up control to an autonomous agent.