One of the challenges in building a semantic meta-language that captures event processing behavior is to bridge the gap between terms that are in different domains. I have written before about Situations following the CITT meeting, in which this term has been discussed. In fact, we have used the term "situation" in AMiT , we also called its core component the "situation manager" We used the term situation to denote a meta-data entity the defines combination of pattern and derivation, but I must admit that this has been a mismatch of terms, although there is a strong correlation among these terms.
First - let's go back to the operational world, in this world events are flowing within event processing networks, in the EPN there are agents of various types: simple (filtering), mediating (transformation, enrichment, aggregation, splitting), complex (pattern detection) and intelligent (uncertainty handling, decision heuristics... ), in the roots of the network there are producers, and in the leaves of the network there are consumers. This is an operational view of what is done, the term "situation" is in fact, not an operational term, but a semantic term, in the consumers' terminology and can be defined as circumstances that require reaction.
How can we move from the operational world to the semantic world - we have two cases here:
- Deterministic case: there is an exact mapping between concepts in the operational world and the situation concept;
- Approximate case: there is only approximate mapping.
In order to understand it, let's take two examples:
Example 1 - toll violation (determinstic, simple)
- The cirumstance that require reaction is the case that somebody crosses a highway toll booth without paying (in Israel the only toll highway is completely automatic, but we'll assume that it occurs elsewhere, and that the toll is not applicable between 9PM - 6AM and in weekends).
- Getting it to the operational domain - there are two cases - one: go in the EZ pass lane and don't pay, two: go in a manual lane and somehow succeed to cross the barrier (obstacle?) without paying.
- The action in both cases: apply camera to capture the license plate, SMS the picture to officer on duty in the other side of the bridge.
From the EPN perspective, we have events of car cross a certain section of the road (the raw event), the EZ pass reading is an attribute of this event, and if no EZ pass it gets a "null" value. There is context information which is --- temporal (it is in hour and day where toll is in effect), spatial (the location of EZ pass lane), note: sometimes people mix the notion of context with the notion of situation, I have explained the difference in the past. Within this context a filter agent that looks for null value in the EZ pass reading is applied, if the filter agent evaluates to true then the situation phrased has been applied in deterministic way, and indeed the edge going out of the filter agent is going directly to a consumer (the camera snapshot may or may not be considered as part of the EPN). This is a case of "simple event processing", stateless filtering, whose output is a situation. This gives a counter example to the misconception that situation is closely related with complex event processing [I can continue the example to the other case, but I think that you got the point by now]
Example 2 - Angry Customer (approximate, complex)
The setting is a call center, the situation is -- detect an angry customer -- refer him or her to the "angry customers officer".
Here the life is not that easy, a human agent can detect angry customers by the tone of their voice (or electronic message), but this does not include all cases of angry customers, so we can look at some pattern saying -- a customer that applied 3rd time in a single day is an angry customer, and then we need to have a "pattern detection" agent that detects the pattern "3rd instances of application" where the context partition refers to the same date, same customer, same product. In this case also a leaf edge is mapped to a situation, but there are two differences from the previous case:
1. The agent is now complex event processing agent since it detects pattern in mu;tliple agents;
2. The edge represents the situation in an approximate way, which means that it can have false positives (the CEP pattern is satisfied but the customer is not really angry, just asked for a lot of information to install the product), or false negatives (the customer called twice, and does not talk in an aggressive tone, yet he is furious).
In some case it also makes sense to associate "certainty factor" with the leaf edge, approximating the measure of belief in the fact that this edge represents the situation. I'll leave the discussion about uncertain situations to another time.