The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (LIA) was founded in 1987 by Prof. Boi Faltings, in the Computer Science Department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). At this time the lab was most active in fields like model-based and qualitative reasoning. In the early 1990s more expertise in design and civil engineering was developed and case-based reasoning as well as constraint satisfaction were applied to these domains. In this period we also moved from the Mathematics Department into a new building for the Computer Science Department.

In the early 1990s, interest shifted to more fundamental work in constraint programming, and the lab made several fundamental contributions to constraint satisfaction with continuous variables and abstraction and reformulation techniques for constraints. These were applied with much success to resource allocation and routing problems, and later lead naturally to work in software agents. For the past decade, we have carried out a sequence of Ph.D. theses on the topic of constraint satisfaction in distributed environments, and we are continuing to develop this work towards real-world applications. Also, we have recently developed several technologies relevant to the world-wide web, in particular for preference-based search, recommender systems and reputation systems. Since 1996, a research group led by Dr. Martin Rajman is also attached to LIA. Its work includes advances in text mining and knowledge extraction techniques.

In 1997, Iconomic Systems S.A. was founded by Boi Faltings and Christian Frei with the goal of commercializing a new network routing technique. It was relaunched in 1999 to develop innovative software for travel e-commerce, backed by 3i and Partners Group, and sold in 2001. This started the virus that has until now led to 6 other currently active startup companies founded or co-founded by former members of LIA and based at least in part on results of the laboratory:

  • Strands (Marc Torrens, 2003), is a company based in Corvallis, Oregon, focussed on recommendation technology,
  • Synctec (Carlos Eisenberg, 2003), based in Singapore, produces tools mainly for the construction industry,
  • NexThink (Pedro Bados, Boi Faltings, 2004), based in the PSE, produces solutions for information security,
  • 3Scale Networks SL (Steven Willmott, 2007), based in Barcelona, provides new technologies for web service contracting,
  • OPT.IM (Ion Constantinescu, 2008) provides a new tool for service composition, and
  • Prediggo (Vincent Schickel, Boi Faltings, 2008) sells recommendation tools based on ontology filtering.

We hope to continue the series…