You may soon be carrying expert systems in your pocket or briefcase. More companies are adapting their software to run on handheld devices that use inference engines rather than hard coding, and customers should have more choices in the coming months and years.
The latest evidence is from software vendor Exsys, which this month ported its Corvid expert systems software to run on Hewlett-Packard's iPaq pocket PCs. The software also can run on about 40 other handhelds that rely on the Document Type Definition subset of IBM WebSphere's Java Virtual Machine.
The ability to arm knowledge workers with expert systems loaded onto handheld devices makes expert knowledge much more accessible. This could be especially useful to sales reps, technicians, or field repair workers.
The National Park Service is looking at using the handheld version of Corvid to evaluate areas that experienced environmental damage, Exsys CEO Dustin Huntington says. With the software, the Park Service could hire people with limited environmental background to go to a site and evaluate the situation as if they were environmental engineers conducting the survey. The expert system, in the form of a questionnaire, would guide the surveyors down the right path, prompting them to seek specific new information based on the response to the last question they entered. "By having that knowledge there," Huntington says, "they're able to put the logic of the decision maker out there in the field."