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live in colonies manifest group integration

and division of labour. Swarm intelligence

are typically made up of a population of

Keywords: Ant colony, Swarm, TSP simple agents interacting locally with one

another and with their environment.

Abstract

Although there is normally no centralized

control structure dictating how individual

The complex social behaviours of ants have

agents should behave, local interactions

been much studied, and computer scientists

between such agents often lead to the

are now finding that these behaviour patterns

emergence of global behaviour.

can provide models for solving difficult

The rest of the paper is divided as follows:

combinatorial optimization problems. The

Sections 1.2 and 1.3 discuss the Ant

attempt to develop algorithms inspired by

Colony and other Social Insect Behaviour

one aspect of ant behavior, the ability to find

approaches. Section 2 gives a theoretical

shortest paths, has become the field of ant

overview and an example of ACO. Variants

colony optimization (ACO). The ant colony

of ACO are briefly explained in Section 3.

optimization algorithm (ACO), introduced by

In Section 4, the application aspects of

Marco Dorigo, in the year 1992, is a

ACO to real world problems is discussed

probabilistic technique for solving

with emphasis on the TSP. The next section

computational problems which can be

gives the merits and demerits of ACO.

reduced to finding good paths through

Finally the conclusion and references are

graphs. This paper presents an overview of

given.

this rapidly growing field, from its

theoretical inception to practical

1.2 Ant Colonies

applications, including descriptions of many

available ACO algorithms and their various Ant Communication is accomplished

applications to solve NP-Hard Problems. In primarily through chemicals called

this paper, we also discuss the Travelling pheromones. Ants communicate to one

Salesman Problem. another by laying down pheromones along

their trails. Other ants perceive the presence

1. Introduction. of pheromone and tend to follow paths

1.1 Behaviour of Social Animals where pheromone concentration is higher.

Over time, however, the pheromone trail

Insects are the most diverse group of starts to evaporate, thus reducing its

animals on the earth. Many insects possess attractive strength. The more time it takes

very sensitive organs of perception. for an ant to travel down the path and back

perception. Swarm Intelligence(SI) is an again, the more time the pheromones have

artificial technique based on the study of to evaporate. A short path gets marched

collective, self-organized systems. SI systems over faster, and thus the pheromone density

remains high as it is laid on the path as fast

as it can evaporate.

The distinctive behaviour of ants has been

extensively studied and has inspired a

number of methods and techniques among

which the most successful is the general

purpose optimization technique known as

Ant Colony Optimization (ACO). ACO

exploits a similar mechanism similar to that

of the foraging behaviour of some ant

species. From the early nineties, when the

first ant colony optimization algorithm was

first proposed, ACO attracted the attention

Figure 1:Ant Behaviour of increasing numbers of researchers and

A. Ants in a pheromone trail between nest and food; many successful applications are now

B. An obstacle interrupts the trail; C. Ants find two available. Moreover, a substantial corpus of

paths to go around the obstacle; D. A new pheromone theoretical results is becoming available

trail is formed along the shorter path.

that provides useful guidelines to

researchers and practitioners in further

Pheromone evaporation has also the

applications of ACO

advantage of avoiding the convergence to a

locally optimal solution. If there were no

evaporation at all, the paths chosen by the 2.2 Characteristics of ACO

first ants would tend to be excessively

Stigmergy is a method of communication

attractive to the following ones. In that case,

in systems in which the individual parts of

the exploration of the solution space would

the system communicate with one another

be constrained. Thus, when one ant finds a

by modifying their local environment. The

good path to a food source, other ants are

two main characteristics of stigmergy that

more likely to follow that path, and positive

differentiate it from other forms of

feedback eventually leaves all the ants

communication are:

following a single path. Figure 1 describes

(i) Stigmergy is an indirect, non-

this ant behaviour.

symbolic form of communication

mediated by the environment:

1.3 Other Social Insects for insects exchange information by

Optimization modifying the environment; and

(ii) Stigmergic information is local: it

Examples of other optimisation systems can only be accessed by those

which can be found in nature include bird insects that visit the locus in which

flocking, animal herding, bacteria moulding it was released (or its immediate

and fish schooling, pedestrians, traffic. The neighbourhood)

beauty of the entire phenomenon lies in the

seemingly intelligent group behaviour that 2.3 The Double Bridge Experiment

emerges from multiple individual animals.

Deneubourg et al. thoroughly investigated

2. Ant Colony Optimization. the behaviour of ants. In an experiment

known as the “double bridge

2.1 The Theory of Ant Colonies experiment”( Figure 2) the nest of a

colony of Argentine ants was connected to

a food source by two bridges of equal plays an important role: the ants choosing

lengths. In such a setting, ants start to by chance the short bridge are the first to

explore the surroundings of the nest and reach the nest. The short bridge, therefore,

eventually reach the food source. Along their receives pheromone earlier than the long

paths, the ants deposit pheromone. Initially, one and this fact increases the probability

each ant randomly chooses one of the two that further ants select it rather than the

bridges. However, due to random long one. A model of this observed

fluctuations, after some time, one of the two behaviour was developed.

bridges presents a higher concentration of

pheromones than the other and , thus, attracts 2.4 ACO Procedure - Pseudo

more ants. This brings a further amount of Algorithm

pheromone on that bridge making it more

attractive with the result that after some time The ACO pseudo-algorithm is shown

the whole colony converges towards the use below. After initialization, the algorithm

of the same bridge. iterates over three phases: at each iteration,

This colony–level behaviour based on a number of solutions are constructed by

autocatalysis , that is , on the exploitation of the ants; these solutions are then improved

positive feedback , can be used by ants to through a local search (this step is

find the shortest path between a food source optional), and finally the pheromone is

and their nests. A variant of the “double updated.

bridge experiment”, in which one bridge is

significantly longer than the other was 1. (Initialization)

considered. In this case, the stochastic Set parameters, initialize pheromone

fluctuations in the initial choice of a bridge trails.

are much reduced and a second mechanism. Initialize τιψ, for each ι,ψ

2. (Construction of AntSolution)

For each ant k do

Repeat

Compute ηιψ for each ι,ψ.

Choose in probability the state to

move into

Append the chosen move to move

the kth ant’s set tabu.

Until ant k has completed its

solution.

[apply a local search(optional)]

3. (Pheromone Trail Update)

For each ant move ( ι,ψ) do

Compute ∆τιψ and update the trail

values

Figure 2: Experimental Setup for the 4. (Terminating condition)

double bridge experiment (a) branches have If not (end_condition) go to step-2.

equal lengths;(b) branches have different lengths.

3. Variants of the ACO Algorithm.

Different ant colony optimization algorithms can be useful for quickly

algorithms have been proposed .The original finding high quality solution. Other

ACO algorithm is known as Ant System and popular applications are to dynamic

was proposed in the early nineties. It’s main shortest path problems arising in

characteristic is that at each iteration, the telecommunication networks problems.

pheromone values are updated by all the ants The number of successful applications to

that have built a solution in the iteration academic problems has motivated people

itself. to adopt ACO for the solution of industrial

Since then a number of other ACO problems, proving that this computation of

algorithms, variants of the original Ant intelligence technique is also useful in real

System, were presented, of which the two world applications.

most successful algorithms were MAXMIN

and Ant Colony system (ACS). 4.1 Application to

MAXMIN is an improvement over the telecommunication networks

original AntSystem. Its characterizing

elements are that only the best ant updates ACO algorithms have shown to be a very

the pheromone trails and that the value of the effective approach for routing problems in

pheromone is bound. telecommunication networks where the

The most interesting contribution of ACS is properties of the system, such as the cost of

the introduction of a local pheromone update using links or the availability of the nodes,

in addition to the pheromone update vary over time. ACO algorithms were first

performed at the end of the construction applied to routing problems in circuit-

process. The local update done diversifies switched networks (such as telephone

the search performed by subsequent ants networks) and then in packet-switched

during an iteration: by decreasing the networks (such as local area networks or

pheromone concentration on the traversed the internet). A well known example is

edges, ants encourage subsequent ants to AntNet which has been extensively tested,

choose other edges an, hence, to produce in simulation, on different networks and

different solutions. This makes it less likely under different traffic patterns, proving to

that several ants produce identical solutions be highly adaptable and robust. A

during one iteration. comparison with state-of-the-art routing

algorithms has shown that, in most of the

4. Applications of ACO in NP-Hard considered situations, AntNet outperforms

Problems. its competitors.

In recent years, the interest of the scientific Ant-based algorithms have given rise to

community in ACO has risen sharply. In several other routing algorithms, enhancing

fact, several successful applications of ACO performance in a variety of wired network

to a wide range of different discrete scenarios.

optimization problems are now available.

The large majority of these applications are 4.2 Application to Industrial

to NP-Hard problems; that is, to problems Problems

for which the best known algorithms that

guarantee to identify an optimal solution The success of ACO on academic

have exponential time worst case problems has raised the attention of a

complexity. The use of such algorithms is number of companies that have started to

often infeasible in practice, and ACO sue ACO algorithms for real-world

applications. They have applied ACO to a according to a stochastic mechanism that is

number of scheduling problems such as a biased by the pheromone: when in vertex i,

continuous two-stage flow shop problem the following vertex is selected

with finite reservoirs. The problems modeled stochastically

included various real world constraints such among the previously unvisited ones. In

as setup times, capacity restrictions, resource particular, if j has not been previously

compatibilities and maintenance calendars. visited, it can be selected with a probability

Some researchers have developed a set of that is proportional to the pheromone

tools for the solution of vehicle-routing associated with the edge (i,j). At the end of

problems whose optimization algorithms are the iteration, on the basis of the quality of

based on ACO. Examples of companies who the solution constructed by the ants, the

have successfully used ACO are EuroBios, pheromone values are modified in order to

AntOptima, DYVOIL, AntRoute, Migros bias ants in future iterations to construct

(the main Swiss supermarket chain) and solutions similar to the best ones previously

Barilla (the main Italian pasta maker). constructed. In Figure 3, ACO-TSP is

given.

4.3 Conventional ACO for the

Travelling Salesman Problem

(TSP)

The traveling salesman problem (TSP) is a

problem in discrete or combinatorial

optimization. It is a prominent illustration of

a class of problems in computational

complexity theory which are hard to solve.

The problem states that : Given a number of

cities and the costs of traveling from any city

to any other city, what is the cheapest round-

trip route that visits each city exactly once

and then returns to the starting city?

In ant colony optimization, the problem is Figure 3 :An ant in city i chooses the next city to

tackled by simulating a number of artificial visit via a stochastic mechanism: If j has not been

ants moving on a graph that encodes the previously visited, it can be selected with a

probability that is proportional to the pheromone

problem itself: each vertex represents a city

associated with edge (i.j).

and each edge represents a connection

between two cities. A variable called Many of the tackled NP-Hard problems can

pheromone is associated with each edge and be considered as falling into one of the

can be read and modified by ants. Ant colony following categories: routing problems as

optimization is an iterative algorithm. At they arise for example in the distribution of

each iteration , a number of artificial ants are goods; assignment problems, where a set of

considered. Each of them builds a solution by items (objects, activities etc.) has to be

walking from vertex to vertex on the graph assigned to a given number of

with the constraint of not visiting any vertex resources(location, agents etc.)subject to

that she has already visited in her walk. At some constraints; scheduling problems ,

each step of the solution construction, an ant which –in the widest sense- concerned with

selects the following vertex to be visited the allocation of scare resources to tasks

over time; and subset problems , where a successful applications have changed our

solution to a problem is considered to be a perspective: what seemed a far-out idea is

selection of a subset of available items. In now considered one of the most promising

addition, ACO has been successfully applied approaches to the approximate solution of

to other problems emerging in fields such as difficult optimization problems.

machine learning and bioinformatics. This paper is a brief write-up of the ideas

and inspirations behind ACO. The

5. The Merits and Demerits of ACO. effectiveness of ACO is justified by the

variety of applications of ACO. This being

Some of the inherent advantages of ACO an emerging field of the Swarm

algorithms are as follows : Intelligence area, much more exploration

• The Positive Feedback in ACO and experimentation can be done in future.

accounts for rapid discovery of good

solutions 7. References

• ACO employs Distributed

computation, which avoids premature [1] Marco Dorigo, Mauro Birattari, and

convergence. Thomas Stiitzli, “Ant Colony Optimization:

• The greedy heuristic used in ACO Artificial Ants as a Computational Intelligence

helps find an acceptable solution in Technique”, IEEE Transaction on

the early solution in the early stages Evolutionary Computation, November 2006,

of the search process. pp. 28-36.

Some of the disadvantages in ACO

[2] J.-L.Deneubourg, S.Aron, S.Goss, and J.-

algorithms are: M.Pasteels, “The Self Organizing Exploratory

• These algorithms have slower Pattern of the Argentine Ant”, Journal of Insect

convergence than other Heuristics. Behaviour, Vol.3, p.159, 1990.

• They performed poorly for TSP

problems larger than 75 cities. [3] Official website of the Ant Colony

• There is no centralized processor to Metaheuristic: www.aco-metaheuristic.org

guide the Ant System towards good

solutions. [4] Other Related links:

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarm_intelligence

6. Conclusion

continues to be a fruitful paradigm for

designing effective combinatorial

optimization solution algorithms. After more

than ten years of studies, both its application

effectiveness and its theoretical groundings

have been demonstrated, making ACO one of

the most successful paradigm in the

metaheuristic area.

Fifteen years ago, when the first ACO

algorithm was introduced, taking inspiration

from ants for designing optimization

algorithms seemed a crazy idea. The many

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