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Systems Designers Plc is looking for around 30 partners to join with it in the continuation of its real time expert system development programme that was initiated with Alvey Project funding back in 1983. Initially called Rescu, the first phase led to a demonstrator system being built at ICI in the North East of England, and the project is now going into the next phase, to produce a working, general purpose real time plant-based industrial expert system. The new club will be called Cogsys for cognitive systems and each member will be expected to put up between UKP10,000 and UKP15,000. Systems Designers will in return put in heavily-discounted staff to build the software, probably in its own Poplog language. The National Computing Centre in Manchester has expressed an interest in putting in some cash but nothing is signed yet. A number of the original 22 Rescu members have also expressed an interest – as well as ICI, such blue chip names as British Steel, British Gas, Kodak and shipbuilder Vosper Thorneycroft were participants. Dick Peebles, chairman of Rescu and head of research and development at the Sellafield British Nuclear Fuels nuclear reprocessing plant was on the forum, seems keen to back the new collaborative club – but at the Systems Designers announcement earlier this week wouldn’t go quite as far as to say the result product would be used on the next Sellafield plant which is due to go on line by 1992, but he did say he had high hopes from expert systems of this kind. The decision to use expert systems at Sellafield hasn’t been taken yet because we don’t know if the technology will work yet, he said. Systems built with Cogsys should either control processes directly, offer constant vigilance to trained operators or give abnormal situation warnings and suggestions of restorative action from abnormal readings, which sounds just the sort of thing that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant could have done with. Some of the Rescu companies could be excused for feeling a touch miffed at having spent thier own UKP10,000 believing they had acquired the intellectual property rights of the Rescu research and with them won a lead over competitors. But the plan is to buy these rights from the Rescu club and use them as the basis for the Cogsys work, again with each member gaining full rights to the product produced, while the club as an entity holds intellectual property rights. Mostly this would be to KRL, Knowledge Representation Language, that was developed by the club to handle real-time environments, and all of the software written in it. At the moment KRL can only express rules and attributes for a real time system, but there are plans under Cogsys to extend it to build full frames and objects reference models, which are considered state of the art for expert systems.

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