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Hello World

The Hello World service provides an overview of the main components of an agent service and how they work together. The goal of this service is to help new users of Open Autonomy understand how the components of of a service work. While the service itself is very simple, it demonstrates common features found in many agent services and can be used as a starting point for building your own service with more complex functionalities.

Architecture of the demo

The demo is composed of:

  • 4 Docker containers implementing the 4 agents of the service (abci0, abci1, abci2, abci3), and
  • 4 Docker containers implementing a Tendermint node for each agent (node0, node1, node2, node3).

The agents connect to the remote DRAND service through the Internet during the execution of the demo.

Hello World service demo architecture with four agents

Running the demo

You can find the instructions on how to run the Hello World service in the quick start guide.

If you have set up the framework, you can fetch the source code of the Hello World agent:

autonomy fetch valory/hello_world:0.1.0:<hash> --alias hello_world_agent

and the Hello World service:

autonomy fetch valory/hello_world:0.1.0:<hash> --service --alias hello_world_service

Details of the demo

The functionality of the service is extremely simple. Namely, each agent will output at different times a HELLO_WORLD! message on their local console. The execution timeline is divided into periods, and within each period, only a nominated agent (keeper) will print the HELLO_WORLD! message. The other agents will just print a neutral face :|.


In the context of agent services, you can think of a period as an interval where the service executes an iteration of its intended functionality (e.g., checking some price on a market, execute an investment strategy, or in this demo, printing a message).

Recall that agents synchronize their state using the consensus gadget. For clarity, we will simplify the consensus gadget infrastructure (the consensus gadget nodes plus the consensus gadget network) in a single green box.

A simplified view of the Hello world service architecture


Every agent service is connected to the consensus gadget through its consensus gadget node:

  • The consensus gadget is the component that makes possible for the agents to synchronise state data. This allows them to, e.g. reach agreement on certain actions or reconcile information.

  • Anything happening at the consensus network level is completely abstracted away so that developers can see it as a given functionality. An application run by the agent service can be thought and developed as a single "virtual" application, and the framework will take care of replicating it.

  • Currently, the consensus gadget is implemented using Tendermint.

This is what the service execution looks like:

Hello World service in action

The main questions that we try to answer in the sections below are:

  • What are the main components of the Open Autonomy framework to implement an agent service?
  • How do these components work?

The FSM of the service

As discussed in the overview of the development process, the first steps when designing an agent service are draft the service idea and define the FSM specification that represents its business logic. This is a representation of the Hello World service FSM:

Diagram of individual operations of the Hello World service

These are the states of the service:

  • Registration. This is a preliminary state where each agent commits to participate actively in the service.
  • CollectRandomness. All agents connect to the DRAND remote service and retrieve the latest published random value.
  • SelectKeeper. Using that random value as seed, the agents nominate randomly an agent (keeper) to execute the service action.
  • PrintMessage. The keeper executes the main action of the service: prints the HELLO_WORLD! message.
  • ResetAndPause. A state where agents wait a bit before re-starting again the main cycle of the service.

And these the possible events (not all events can occur at every state):

  • DONE. The state has successfully completed its intended purpose.
  • NO_MAJORITY. There is no majority (more than 2/3) of agents that agree in the outcome of the state.
  • TIMEOUT. Not all agents responded within a specified amount of time.

You can see above how the service transits from one state to another given the event occurred at each one. The synchronized state enforced by the consensus gadget means that all the agents have the same view of the service FSM, and all the agents execute the same transitions. This is one of the key concepts of the Open Autonomy framework.

A note on determinism

One of the key points in an agent service is determinism. It is very important that all the agents execute deterministic actions at each step, otherwise it will be impossible to synchronize their shared state.

For example, if the service needs to execute some random action, all agents must retrieve the random seed from a common source, in this case, the DRAND service.

Given the description of the service, it is immediate to obtain the FSM specification file.

The Hello World service fsm_specification.yaml file
default_start_state: RegistrationRound
final_states: []
label: HelloWorldAbciApp
- RegistrationRound
- CollectRandomnessRound
- PrintMessageRound
- RegistrationRound
- ResetAndPauseRound
- SelectKeeperRound
    (CollectRandomnessRound, DONE): SelectKeeperRound
    (CollectRandomnessRound, NO_MAJORITY): CollectRandomnessRound
    (CollectRandomnessRound, ROUND_TIMEOUT): CollectRandomnessRound
    (PrintMessageRound, DONE): ResetAndPauseRound
    (PrintMessageRound, ROUND_TIMEOUT): RegistrationRound
    (RegistrationRound, DONE): CollectRandomnessRound
    (ResetAndPauseRound, DONE): CollectRandomnessRound
    (ResetAndPauseRound, NO_MAJORITY): RegistrationRound
    (ResetAndPauseRound, RESET_TIMEOUT): RegistrationRound
    (SelectKeeperRound, DONE): PrintMessageRound
    (SelectKeeperRound, NO_MAJORITY): RegistrationRound
    (SelectKeeperRound, ROUND_TIMEOUT): RegistrationRound

The FSM App of the service

Each agent is composed of a number of components, namely, connections, protocols, contracts and skills. In order to become part of an agent service, the agent requires a special skill: the FSM App. The FSM App skill is the component that processes events,transits the states of the service FSM, and executes the actions of the service.

Zoom on a Hello World service agent.

The FSM App is a complex component that consists of a number of classes. Below we list the main ones.

For each state of the service FSM:

  • A Behaviour: The class that executes the proactive action at each state. For example, cast a vote for a keeper, print a message on screen, send a transaction on a blockchain, etc.
  • A Payload: The message exchanged between agents in the state to indicate completion of the action. For example, a message containing what keeper the agent is voting for.
  • A Round: The class that processes the input from the consensus gadget and outputs the appropriate events to make the next transition. For example, output the event DONE when all agents have cast they vote for a keeper.

Additionally, the following two classes:

  • AbciApp: The class that defines the FSM itself and the transitions between states according to the FSM.
  • RoundBehaviour: The main class of the FSM App skill, which aggregates the AbciApp and establishes a one-to-one relationship between the rounds and behaviours of each state.

In summary, the Hello World service FSM App requires 5 Behaviours, 5 Payloads, 5 Rounds, 1 AbciApp and 1 RoundBehaviour.

Canonical agents vs agent instances

All agents in a service are implemented by the same codebase. We call such codebase a canonical agent, and we call each of the actual instances an agent instance. We often use agent for short when there is no risk of confusion and it is clear from the context which of the two terms we are referring to.

Each agent instance in a service can be parameterized with their own set of keys, addresses and other required attributes.

How the FSM App works

Let us focus on what happens inside the FSM App of an agent when the service is located in the SelectKeeper state and it transitions to the PrintMessage state.

  1. Execute the action and prepare the payload. The SelectKeeperBehaviour is in charge of two tasks:

    • Execute the intended action, that is, determine what agent will be voted for as the new keeper. The choice is made deterministically, based on the randomness retrieved from DRAND.
    • Prepares the SelectKeeperPayload, which contains its selection.

  2. Send the payload. The SelectKeeperBehaviour is in charge sends the payload to the consensus gadget.

  3. Reach consensus. The consensus gadget reads all the agents' outputs, and ensures that all agents have the same consistent view. The gadget takes the responsibility of executing the consensus algorithm, which is abstracted away to the developer. The consensus gadget uses a short-lived blockchain to execute the consensus algorithm.


    "Reaching consensus" does not mean that the consensus gadget ensures that all the agents send the same payload. Rather, it means that all the agents have a consistent view on what payload was sent by each of them. In this particular case, however all agents cast the same vote.

  4. Callback to the FSM App. Once the consensus phase is finished, the SelectKeeperRound receives a callback and processes the outputs. Based on that, it casts an event. In this case, if strictly more than \(2/3\) of the agents voted for a certain keeper, it casts the event DONE.

  5. Transition to the next state. The event DONE is received by the AbciApp class, which executes the transition to the next state (PrintMessage).

The executions of further state transitions can be easily mapped with what has been presented here for the transition SelectKeeper \(\rightarrow\) PrintMessage.

Transition PrintMessage \(\rightarrow\) ResetAndPause

Following the same steps as above, this is what would happen:

  1. The PrintMessageBehaviour, executes the main functionality. For the chosen keeper, it will be printing the HELLO_WORLD message. The rest of the agents simply print a neutral face.

    Result of the execution the second period of the Hello World service

  2. The PrintMessageBehaviour sends a PrintMessagePayload to the consensus gadget, indicating what was the message it printed by each agent.

  3. The consensus gadget executes the consensus protocol ensuring a consistent view for all the agents.
  4. The PrintMessageRound receives a callback, and after checking that all agents have responded it will produce the DONE event.
  5. The AbciApp processes the event DONE, and moves to the next state, ResetAndPause.


Observe that whereas in the SelectKeeper state we expect that all agents output the same payload to the consensus gadget (the same keeper vote), in the PrintMessage state it is admissible that the agents send different values, because they print different things on their console.

Other states might have different waiting conditions, for instance

  • wait until all agents respond with a (possibly) different value, or
  • wait until more than a threshold of agents respond with the same value.

When the waiting condition is not met during a certain time interval, a special timeout event is generated by the Round, and the developer is in charge of defining how the FSM will transit in that case. You can see some of these unexpected events in the FSM diagram above.

Bird's eye view

As a summary, find below an image which shows the main components of the agent and the skill related to the Hello World service presented in this overview. Of course, this is by no means the complete picture of what is inside an agent, but it should give a good intuition of what are the main elements that play a role in any agent service and how they interact.

Main components of an agent that play a role in an agent service. Red arrows indicate a high-level flow of messages when the agent is in the SelectKeeper state.

Coding the Hello World service: a primer

As detailed in the overview of the development process, in order to create a service, you must:

  • code the FSM App skill,
  • define the agent, and
  • define the service.

We will explore this source code in the sections below, paying attention on the main parts that you should take into account.

Exploring the FSM App skill code

Take a look at the structure of the FSM App skill of the Hello World service (called hello_world_abci):

├── fsm_specification.yaml
├── skill.yaml
└── tests/

Note that the easiest way to start building a new FSM App is by using the FSM App scaffold tool, because it already populates many of these files. The most important files you should look at are:

  • This file defines the Behaviours, which encode the proactive actions occurring at each state of the FSM. Each behaviour is one-to-one associated to a Round. It also contains the HelloWorldRoundBehaviour class, which can be thought as the "main" class for the skill behaviour.

    Each behaviour must:

    1. Set the matching_round attribute to the corresponding Round class.
    2. Define the action executed in the state inside the method async_act().
    3. Prepare the Payload associated with this state. The payload can be anything that other agents might find useful for the action in this or future states.
    4. Send the Payload, which the consensus gadget will be in charge of synchronizing with all the agents.
    5. Wait until the consensus gadget finishes its work, and mark the state set_done().

    The last three steps above are common for all the Behaviours.

    The PrintMessageBehaviour class

    Class diagram:

    classDiagram HelloWorldABCIBaseBehaviour <|-- PrintMessageBehaviour BaseBehaviour <|-- HelloWorldABCIBaseBehaviour IPFSBehaviour <|-- BaseBehaviour AsyncBehaviour <|-- BaseBehaviour CleanUpBehaviour <|-- BaseBehaviour SimpleBehaviour <|-- IPFSBehaviour Behaviour <|-- SimpleBehaviour class AsyncBehaviour{ +async_act() +async_act_wrapper() } class HelloWorldABCIBaseBehaviour { +syncrhonized_data() +params() } class PrintMessageBehaviour{ +behaviour_id = "print_message" +matching_round = PrintMessageRound +async_act() }
    Hierarchy of the PrintMessageBehaviour class (some methods and fields are omitted)

    The HelloWorldABCIBaseBehaviour is a convenience class, and the upper class in the hierarchy are abstract classes from the stack that facilitate re-usability of code when implementing the Behaviour. An excerpt of the PrintMessageBehaviour code is:

    class PrintMessageBehaviour(HelloWorldABCIBaseBehaviour, ABC):
        """Prints the celebrated 'HELLO WORLD!' message."""
        matching_round = PrintMessageRound
        def async_act(self) -> Generator:
            Do the action.
            - Determine if this agent is the current keeper agent.
            - Print the appropriate to the local console.
            - Send the transaction with the printed message and wait for it to be mined.
            - Wait until ABCI application transitions to the next round.
            - Go to the next behaviour (set done event).
            if (
                == self.synchronized_data.most_voted_keeper_address
                message = self.params.hello_world_string
                message = ":|"
            printed_message = f"Agent {self.context.agent_name} (address {self.context.agent_address}) in period {self.synchronized_data.period_count} says: {message}"
            payload = PrintMessagePayload(self.context.agent_address, printed_message)
            yield from self.send_a2a_transaction(payload)
            yield from self.wait_until_round_end()

    Once all the Behaviours are defined, you can define the HelloWorldRoundBehaviour class. This class follows a quite standard structure in all agent services, and the reader can easily infer what is it from the source code.

    The HelloWorldRoundBehaviour class
    class HelloWorldRoundBehaviour(AbstractRoundBehaviour):
        """This behaviour manages the consensus stages for the Hello World abci app."""
        initial_behaviour_cls = RegistrationBehaviour
        abci_app_cls = HelloWorldAbciApp
        behaviours: Set[Type[BaseBehaviour]] = {
            RegistrationBehaviour,  # type: ignore
            CollectRandomnessBehaviour,  # type: ignore
            SelectKeeperBehaviour,  # type: ignore
            PrintMessageBehaviour,  # type: ignore
            ResetAndPauseBehaviour,  # type: ignore
  • This file defines the payloads associated to the consensus engine for each of the states. Payloads are data objects, and carry almost no business logic.

    The PrintMessagePayload class
    class PrintMessagePayload(BaseTxPayload):
        """Represent a transaction payload of type 'randomness'."""
        message: str
  • This file contains the implementation of the rounds associated to each state and the shared SynchronizedData class (the class that stores the service shared state). It also contains the declaration of the FSM events, and the HelloWorldAbciApp, which defines the transition function of the FSM.

    Each round must:

    1. Inherit from one of the classes that determine what kind of consensus is expected at the associated sate: CollectDifferentUntilAllRound, CollectSameUntilAllRound, CollectSameUntilThresholdRound, etc.
    2. Set the payload_class attribute to the corresponding Payload class.
    3. Set other attributes required by the inherited class.
    4. Implement the end_block() method, which is called by the consensus gadget. This method must output the updated SynchronizedData and the event produced after evaluating the consensus result.
    The PrintMessageRound class

    Class diagram:

    classDiagram AbstractRound <|-- CollectionRound CollectionRound <|-- _CollectUntilAllRound _CollectUntilAllRound <|-- CollectDifferentUntilAllRound CollectDifferentUntilAllRound <|-- PrintMessageRound HelloWorldABCIAbstractRound <|-- PrintMessageRound AbstractRound <|-- HelloWorldABCIAbstractRound class AbstractRound{ +round_id +payload_class -_synchronized_data +synchronized_data() +end_block() +check_payload() +process_payload()* } class HelloWorldABCIAbstractRound{ +synchronized_data() -_return_no_majority_event() } class CollectionRound{ -collection +payloads() +payloads_count() +process_payload() +check_payload() } class _CollectUntilAllRound{ +check_payload() +process_payload() +collection_threshold_reached() } class CollectDifferentUntilAllRound{ +check_payload() } class PrintMessageRound{ +payload_class = PrintMessagePayload +end_block() }
    Hierarchy of the PrintMessageRound class (some methods and fields are omitted)

    The HelloWorldABCIAbstractRound is a convenience class defined in the same file. The class CollectDifferentUntilAllRound is a helper class for rounds that expect that each agent sends a different message. In this case, the message to be sent is the agent printed by each agent, which will be obviously different for each agent (one of them will be the HELLO_WORLD! message, and the others will be empty messages).

    class PrintMessageRound(CollectDifferentUntilAllRound, HelloWorldABCIAbstractRound):
        """A round in which the keeper prints the message"""
        payload_class = PrintMessagePayload
        def end_block(self) -> Optional[Tuple[BaseSynchronizedData, Event]]:
            """Process the end of the block."""
            if self.collection_threshold_reached:
                synchronized_data = self.synchronized_data.update(
                            cast(PrintMessagePayload, payload).message
                            for payload in self.collection.values()
                return synchronized_data, Event.DONE
            return None

    If the successful condition occurs, the end_block() method returns the appropriate event (DONE) so that the AbciApp can process and transit to the next round.

    Observe that the RegistrationRound is very similar to the PrintMessageRound, as it simply has to collect the different addresses that each agent sends. On the other hand, the classes CollectRandomnessRound and SelectKeeperRound just require to define some parent classes attributes, as they execute fairly standard operations already available in the framework.

    After having defined all the Rounds, the HelloWorldAbciApp does not have much mystery. It simply defines the transitions from one state to another in the FSM, arranged as Python dictionaries. For example,

    SelectKeeperRound: {
        Event.DONE: PrintMessageRound,
        Event.NO_MAJORITY: RegistrationRound,
        Event.ROUND_TIMEOUT: RegistrationRound,

    denotes the three possible transitions from the SelectKeeperRound to the corresponding Rounds, according to the FSM depicted above.

Whereas these are the main files to take into account, there are other files that are also required, and you can take a look:

  • skill.yaml: This is the skill specification file. It defines the sub-components (e.g. protocols, connections) required by the skill, as well as a number of configuration parameters.
  • Defines the Handlers (implementing reactive actions) used by the skill. It is mandatory that the skill associated to an agent service implements a handler inherited from the ABCIRoundHandler. Other handlers are required according to the actions that the skill is performing (e.g., interacting with an HTTP server). As you can see by exploring the file, little coding is expected unless you need to implement a custom protocol.
  • It defines the dialogues associated to the protocols described in the skill.yaml configuration file. Again, not much coding is expected in most cases.
  • It defines the models of the skill, which usually consist of the SharedState and the configuration parameters Params classes. The classes defined here are linked with the contents in the section models in the file skill.yaml.
  • fsm_specification.yaml: The FSM App specification file. It is used for checking the consistency of the implementation, and it can be used to verify the implementation or to scaffold the FSM App providing an initial structure.

Exploring the agent definition code

The agent configuration file aea-config.yaml is located in the root folder of the agent:

├── aea-config.yaml
├── tests/
└── vendor/

Agents are defined through the Open AEA library as YAML files, which specify what components the agent made of (connections, protocols, contracts and skills). Recall that an agent requires the FSM App skill to work in a service.

This is an excerpt of the aea-config.yaml file:

# (...)
- valory/abci:0.1.0
- valory/http_client:0.23.0
- valory/ipfs:0.1.0
- valory/ledger:0.19.0
- valory/p2p_libp2p_client:0.1.0
contracts: []
- open_aea/signing:1.0.0
- valory/abci:0.1.0
- valory/http:1.0.0
- valory/ipfs:0.1.0
- valory/abstract_abci:0.1.0
- valory/abstract_round_abci:0.1.0
- valory/hello_world_abci:0.1.0
# (...)

It is mandatory that service agents include some of mandatory components: the abci connection, the abci protocol, the abstract_abci skill and the abstract_round_abci skill.

Additionally, the agent can use other connections, protocols or skills, depending of its particular needs. In the example, the http_client connection and the http protocol allows the agent to interact with HTTP servers (although we are not using it in this service). Similarly, you can add the ledger connection and the ledger_api protocol in case the agent needs to interact with a blockchain. It obviously contains the hello_world_abci skill, which is the FSM App skill discussed above.

Note that although it is possible to develop your own protocols and connections, the Open AEA framework provides a number of typical ones which can be reused. Therefore, it is usual that the developer focuses most of its programming efforts in coding the particular skill(s) for their new agent.

Exploring the service definition code

The service configuration file service.yaml is located in the root folder of the service:

└── service.yaml

You can read the dedicated section to understand the structure and configuration of the service.yaml file.

Conclusion and further reading

Even though printing HELLO_WORLD! on a local console is far from being an exciting functionality, the Hello World service shows a number of non-trivial elements that are key components in many agent services:

  • The service defines a sequence of individual, well-defined actions, whose execution in the appropriate order achieves the intended functionality.
  • Agents have to interact with each other to execute each of those actions, and reach a consensus on a number of decisions at certain moments (e.g., which is the keeper agent that prints the message in each period).
  • Agents execute actions on their own. In this simple example it just consists of printing a local message.
  • Agents have to use a shared, global store for persistent data (e.g., which was the last agent that printed the message).
  • Finally, the service can progress even if some agent is faulty or malicious (up to a certain threshold of malicious agents).

In this toy example we are not verifying that the keeper behaves honestly: there is no way for the other agents to verify its console. However, in a real service that implements some critical operation (e.g., like sending a transaction to a blockchain) further verification and security mechanisms have to be put in place.

This walk-through, together with the overview of the development process should give you some confidence to start creating your first service. Obviously, there are more elements in the Open Autonomy framework that facilitate building complex applications by enabling to interact with blockchains and other networks. We refer the reader to the more advanced sections of the documentation (e.g., key concepts) where we explore in detail the components of the stack.