The following was once here and resurrected with the prescient help of the Wayback Machine.
Agorics did most of this research in contract with Sun.
Webmart: Managing Shared Resources by Market Mechanisms
Think about the Information Superhighway: Just like a real highway, as
soon as it is expanded, it gets clogged.
Priority mechanisms—such as
the diamond lane—are required to manage the traffic and improve the
flow. By putting two people in your car, you automatically get priority,
and are allowed to drive in the faster diamond lane. To provide a
different kind of control, permits or stickers could be sold that would
allow you to drive in the fast lane with only one person in your car.
Now imagine there is an interactive computer in your car. You’re rushing
to the airport, late for your flight—to get into the diamond lane, you
might actually raise your bid while you are driving! It would be worth
paying extra to get to the airport on time.
The SunLabs Webmart project is exploring the application of
micro-economic principles to the management of system level resources.
As a part of this effort we are developing an experimental electronic
economy which is being seeded with an initial set of applications, each
of which is aimed at exploring a different facet of computational
Network bandwidth auction
All of the workstations connected by an ATM network participate in the
dynamic auction of the network’s available bandwidth. The cost of
transmitting a cell over the Net is a function of the current demand for
network bandwidth. As demand for bandwidth grows, so too does the
price. Users define the amount they are willing to pay for a given
level of video quality, and when contention occurs, the network
bandwidth is allocated to those users who have indicated a higher value
through their bids. The market mechanism being used is a running
second-price, sealed bid auction, which has several desirable
computational as well as economic properties and is implemented as a
standard priority-like mechanism.
The users specify to the system that the audio and video being sent to a
local workstation have different values to the users at different points
in time. In particular, the users may not wish to actively monitor a
video program, but instead may be interested only in specific parts of
the broadcast. The users may indicate to the system that the audio/video
portion of the broadcast is of little value until an active agent that
has been monitoring the broadcast detects a subject of interest within
the text stream. When such an event is detected, the agent automatically
signals to the system that the value of the audio and video portions of
the program is now increased and brings the broadcast to the users’
attention. When the users determine that the program is no longer of
interest, they can return the audio and video to monitoring mode,
indicating the diminished value of the program and reactivating the
agent to monitor the text stream for additional topics of interest.
Shared satellite receiving equipment
SunLabs owns a collection of specialized satellite receiving equipment
under computer control. Much of this equipment cannot be shared by
multiple simultaneous users. This application enforces serial access to
these resources and ensures that they are allocated in a way that
maximizes the value delivered to the user community. The users select a
period of time over which the resource is desired, defines the value
they place on it and submits a bid for that time slot. Higher bids are
accepted up until the closing time, at which point the highest bidder
owns the exclusive right to use the resource for that given slot. This
allows the resale of resource reservations, creating a futures market in
satellite equipment usage.
Continuous feed of news stories, stock quotes, sport scores,
Users pay a monthly subscription fee to receive an electronic
scoreboard-style display, which provides a continuously updated stream
of current information to the desktop. The information provided by this
service provides national and international news stories, stock quotes,
sports scores, and movie reviews. This application is implemented with
Sun’s new Java programming language and illustrates how Java can be used
to present dynamic information streams to clients over the network.
Users can personalize the service by subscribing to a specific type of
Users pay a flat fee in return for playing a chosen track from one of
the audio CDs contained within a computer-controlled, multidisk CD
changer. In typical operation, multiple requests to play tracks are
queued and serviced in a first-come, first-served order. However, users
can advance their requests in the queue by providing payments in
addition to the amount required to play a track. In addition, a monthly
rental fee is required for each CD slot in the disk changer, and
royalties are paid to the owner of the CD each time a track from it is
Image database browser
An image database browser is integrated with a format conversion
service. This application allows the users to locate a desired image,
perform a range of different transforms on it, and then preview the
results. When the users are satisfied with the image, they can choose to
purchase and receive a copy of it. This application not only uses a
dynamic pricing mechanism, but also handles the disbursement of
royalties to the appropriate parties for each purchase.