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ANT COLONY OPTIMIZATION

Shweta Agrawal

ABSTRACT

Sudha Chandrakar

The ant colony optimization algorithm (ACO) is a probabilistic technique for solving computational problems which can be reduced to finding good paths through graphs and it constitutes some metaheuristic optimizations. In the real world, ants wander randomly, and upon finding food return to their colony while laying down pheromone trails. If other ants find such a path, they are likely not to keep travelling at random, but to instead follow the trail, returning and reinforcing it if they eventually find food. Thus, when one ant finds a good (i.e., short) path from the colony to a food source, other ants are more likely to follow that path. The idea of the ant colony algorithm is to mimic this behavior with "simulated ants" walking around the graph representing the problem to solve. In a series of experiments on a colony of ants with a choice between two unequal length paths leading to a source of food, biologists have observed that ants tended to use the shortest route. Ants use the environment as a medium of communication. The information exchanged has a local scope, only an ant located where the pheromones were left has a notion of them. This system is called "Stigmergy" and occurs in many social animal societies. As a very good example, ant colony optimization algorithms have been used to produce near-optimal solutions to the travelling salesman problem. The first ACO algorithm was called the Ant system. The general algorithm is relatively simple and based on a set of ants, each making one of the possible round-trips along the cities. Other application is Knapsack problem.

Keywords: Ant Colony Optimization , Application , Merits .

I.

INTRODUCTION:

colony optimization (ACO) is a recent family member of the meta-heuristic algorithms and can be used to solve complex optimization problems with few modifications by adding problem-dependent heuristics. ACO is a biological inspiration simulating the ability of real ant colony of finding the shortest path between the nest and food source. It is one of the successful applications of swarm intelligence which is the field of artificial intelligence that study the intelligent behavior of groups rather than of individuals such as the behavior of natural system of social insects like ants, bees, wasps, and termites. Swarm intelligence uses stigmergy which is a form of indirect communication through the environment. The class of complex optimization problems called combinatorial optimization problems are found in many areas of research and development. Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP), Quadratic Assignment Problem (QAP), Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP), Graph Coloring Problem (GCP), Sequential Ordering Problem (SOP), Job Scheduling Problem (JSP) and Network Routing Problem (NRP) are some examples of these problems. Combinatorial optimization problems arise when the task is to find the best out of many possible solutions to a given problem, provided that a clear notion of solution quality exists. In contrast to other optimization problems, combinatorial problems have a finite number of candidate solutions. Therefore, an obvious way to solve these problems is to enumerate all candidate solutions by comparing them against each other. Unfortunately, for most interesting combinatorial optimization problems, this colony optimization (ACO) is a recent family member of the meta-heuristic algorithms and can be used to solve complex optimization problems with few modifications by adding problem-dependent heuristics. ACO is a biological inspiration simulating the ability of real ant colony of finding the shortest path between the nest and food source. It is

one of the successful applications of swarm intelligence which is the field of artificial intelligence that study the intelligent behavior of groups rather than of individuals such as the behavior of natural system of social insects like ants, bees, wasps, and termites. Swarm intelligence uses stigmergy which is a form of indirect communication through the environment. The class of complex optimization problems called combinatorial optimization problems are found in many areas of research and development. Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP), Quadratic Assignment Problem (QAP), Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP), Graph Coloring Problem (GCP), Sequential Ordering Problem (SOP), Job Scheduling Problem (JSP) and Network Routing Problem (NRP) are some examples of these problems. Combinatorial optimization problems arise when the task is to find the best out of many possible solutions to a given problem, provided that a clear notion of solution quality exists. In contrast to other optimization problems, combinatorial problems have a finite number of candidate solutions. Therefore, an obvious way to solve these problems is to enumerate all candidate solutions by comparing them against each other. Unfortunately, for most interesting combinatorial optimization problems, this approach proves to be impractical since the number of candidate solutions is simply too large. The only way to tackle the problems is to apply heuristic search that delivers no guarantee of finding the optimum solution The main element of ACO success is the use of a combination of priori information (heuristics) about the quality of candidate solutions (also called greedy strategy) and posteriori information (pheromone) about the goodness of the previously obtained solutions (also called positive feedback or autocatalytic process). This seems reasonable since many researches that study the characteristics of some well known optimization problems show that there is a correlation between the solution quality and the distance from the optimal solution. Several well known ACO examples are Ant System , Ant Colony System , Max-Min Ant System, Ranked Ant System and Best Worst Ant System . These algorithms show interesting performance and are competitive with other state of the art optimization methods. However, more research work is needed to enhance the ACO algorithms performance especially on large volume of combinatorial problems. Increasing the number of ants used to tackle a large problem almost yield to a worse algorithm performance. The key element is the organization of the ants’ population and the coordination of their works in such a way that yields to a good exploration of the large search space in a strong coupling with the exploitation of the search history.

ANT COLONY OPTIMIZATION

Ant colony optimization (ACO) meta-heuristic, a novel population-based approach was recently proposed in 992 by Marco Dorigo et al. to solve several discrete optimization problems [13]. The ACO mimics the way real ants find the shortest route between a food source and their nest. The ants communicate with one another by means of pheromone trails and exchange information about which path should be followed. The more the number of ants traces a given path, the more attractive this path (trail) becomes and is followed by other ants by depositing their own pheromone. This auto catalytic and collective behavior results in the establishment of the shortest route. Ants find the shortest path from their nest to the food source with the help of pheromone trail. This characteristic of ants is adapted on ant colony optimization algorithms to solve real problems with using exactly some characteristics of ants and some new addition. The method improved by modeling real ants use exactly the same specifications taken from real ants are below :

The communication established with ants through pheromone trail.

Paths deposited more pheromone preferred previously.

Pheromone trail on short paths increase more rapidly. Addition of new specifications to this new technique is below:

They live in an environment where time is discrete.

They will not be completely blind, they will reach the details about the problem.

They will keep information formed for the solution of the problem with has some memory.

As shown in Figure 1-a, ants start from their nest and goes along a linear path through the food source.

Pheromone trails. The quantity of pheromone laying on a component represents the past experience of the colony with respect to choosing this component. When there is only one objective function, this past experience is defined with respect to this objective. However, when there are several objectives, one may

consider two different strategies. A first strategy is to consider a single pheromone structure, as proposed in [16, 17, 18, 19]. In this case, the quantity of pheromone laid by ants is defined with respect to an aggregation of the different objectives. A second strategy is to consider several pheromone structures. In this case, one usually associates a different colony of ants with each different objective, each colony having its own pheromone structure.

Solutions to reward. When updating pheromone trails, one has to decide on which of the constructed solutions laying pheromone. A first possibility is to reward solutions that find the best values for each criterion in the current cycle, as proposed in [21, 22, 24]. A second possibility is to reward every non- dominated solution of the current cycle. In this case, one may either reward all the solutions in the Pareto set, as proposed in [19] or only the new non-dominated solutions that enter in the set in the current cycle, as proposed in [20].

The original idea comes from observing the exploitation of food resources among ants, in which ants’ individually limited cognitive abilities have collectively been able to find the shortest path between a food source and the nest.

  • 1. The first ant finds the food source (F), via any way (a), then returns to the nest (N), leaving behind a trail pheromone (b)

  • 2. Ants indiscriminately follow four possible ways, but the strengthening of the runway makes it more attractive as the shortest route.

  • 3. Ants take the shortest route, long portions of other ways lose their trail pheromones.

In a series of experiments on a colony of ants with a choice between two unequal length paths leading to a source of food, biologists have observed that ants tended to use the shortest route. A model explaining this behaviour is as follows:

  • 1. An ant (called "blitz") runs more or less at random around the colony;

  • 2. If it discovers a food source, it returns more or less directly to the nest, leaving in its path a trail of pheromone;

  • 3. These pheromones are attractive, nearby ants will be inclined to follow, more or less directly, the track;

  • 4. Returning to the colony, these ants will strengthen the route;

  • 5. If there are two routes to reach the same food source then, in a given amount of time, the shorter one will be traveled by more ants than the long route;

  • 6. The short route will be increasingly enhanced, and therefore become more attractive;

  • 7. The long route will eventually disappear because pheromones are volatile;

  • 8. Eventually, all the ants have determined and therefore "chosen" the shortest route.

APPLICATION :

  • 1. Telecommunication networks :

ACO algorithms have shown to be a very effective approach for routing problems in telecommunication networks where the properties of the system, such as the cost of using links or the availability of the nodes ,vary over time. ACO algorithms were first applied to routing problems in circuit- switched networks (such as telephone networks) and then in packet-switched networks (such as local area networks or the internet). A well known example is Ant Net which has been extensively tested ,in simulation, on different networks and under different traffic patterns, proving to be highly adaptable and robust. A comparison with state-of-the-art routing algorithms has shown that, in most of the considered situations, Ant Net out performs its competitors. Ant-based algorithms have given rise to several other routing algorithms, enhancing performance in a variety of wired network scenarios.

  • 2. Application to Industrial Problems :

The success of ACO on academic problems has raised the attention of a number of companies that have started to sue ACO algorithms for real-world applications . They have applied ACO to a number of scheduling problems such as a continuous two-stage flow shop problem with finite reservoirs. The problems modeled included various real world constraints such as setup times, capacity restrictions, resource compatibilities and maintenance calendars .Some researchers have developed a set of tools for the solution of vehicle-routing problems whose optimization algorithms are based on ACO. Examples of companies who have successfully used ACO are Euro Bios ,Ant Optima, DYVOIL, Ant Route, Migros (the main Swiss supermarket chain) and Barilla (the main Italian pasta maker).

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 tackled by simulating a number of artificial ants moving on a graph that encodes the problem itself: each vertex represents a city and each edge represents a connection between two cities. A variable called pheromone is associated with each edge and can be read and modified by ants. Ant colony optimization is an iterative algorithm. At each iteration , a number of artificial ants are considered. Each of them builds a solution by walking from vertex to vertex on the graph with the constraint of not visiting any vertex that she has already visited in her walk. At each step of the solution construction, an ant selects the following vertex to be visited according to a stochastic mechanism that is biased by the pheromone: when in vertex ,the following vertex is selected stochastically among the previously unvisited ones. In particular, if j has not been previously visited , it can be selected with a probability that is proportional to the pheromone associated with the edge(I ,j). At the end of the iteration, on the basis of the quality of the solution constructed by the ants, the pheromone values are modified in

order to bias ants in future iterations to construct solutions similar to the best ones previously constructed. In Figure 3,ACO-TSP is given.

order to bias ants in future iterations to construct solutions similar to the best ones previously

Figure 3 :

An ant in city i chooses the next city to visit via a stochastic mechanism: If j has not been previously visited, it can be selected with a probability that is proportional to the pheromone associated with edge(i .j ). Many of the tackled NP-Hard problems can be considered as falling into one of the following categories:

routing problems as they arise for example in the distribution of goods ; assignment problems, where a set of items (objects, activities etc.) has to be assigned to a given number of resources (location, agents etc.)subject to some constraints; scheduling problems ,which –in the widest sense- concerned with the allocation of scare resources to tasks over time; and subset problems , where a solution to a problem is considered to be as election of a subset of available items. In addition , ACO has been successfully applied to other problems emerging in fields such as machine learning and bioinformatics.

4. Knapsack problem :

The ants prefer the smaller drop of honey over the more abundant, but less nutritious, sugar. Ant colony optimization algorithms have been applied to many combinatorial optimization problems, ranging from quadratic assignment to fold protein or rout in vehicles and a lot of derived methods have been adapted to dynamic problems in real variables, stochastic problems, multi-targets and parallel implementations. It has also been used to produce near-optimal solutions to the travelling salesman problem. They have an advantage over simulated annealing and genetic algorithm approaches of similar problems when the graph may change dynamically; the ant colony algorithm can be run continuously and adapt to changes in real time. This is of interest in network routing and urban transportation systems. As a very good example, ant colony optimization algorithms have been used to produce near-optimal solutions to the travelling salesman problem. The first ACO algorithm was called the Ant system and it was aimed to solve the travelling salesman problem, in which the goal is to find the shortest round-trip to link a series of cities. The general algorithm is relatively simple and based on a set of ants, each making one of the possible round-trips along the cities. At each stage, the ant chooses to move from one city to another according to some rules:

  • 1. It must visit each city exactly once;

  • 2. A distant city has less chance of being chosen (the visibility);

4.

Having completed its journey, the ant deposits more pheromones on all edges it traversed, if the journey is short;

  • 5. After each iteration, trails of pheromones evaporate. THE MERITS AND DEMERITS OF ACO :

Some of the inherent advantages of ACO algorithms are as follows :

The Positive Feedback in ACO accounts for rapid discovery of good solutions ACO employs Distributed computation, which avoids premature convergence. The greedy heuristic used in ACO helps find an acceptable solution in the early solution in the early stages of the search process.

Some of the disadvantages in ACO algorithms are:

These algorithms have slower convergence than other Heuristics.

They performed poorly for TSP problems larger than 75 cities.

There is no centralized processor to guide the Ant System towards good solutions.

III CONSLUSION & FUTURE WORK :

Ant Colony Optimization has been and 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 successful applications have changed our perspective : what seemed a far-out idea is now considered one of the most promising approaches to the approximate solution of difficult optimization problems. This paper is a brief write-up of the ideas and inspirations behind ACO. The effectiveness of ACO is justified by the variety of applications of ACO. This being an emerging field of the Swarm Intelligence area, much more exploration and experimentation can be done in future.

IV REFERENCES :

[1] Marco Dorigo , Mauro Birattari, and Thomas Stiitzli, “Ant Colony Optimization: Artificial Ants as a Computational Intelligence Technique ”, IEEE Transaction on Evolutionary Computation, November 2006, pp. 28-36. [2] J.-L.Deneubourg, S.Aron, S.Goss, and J.-M.Pasteels,

[3] Dreyfus, Stuart, and Law, Averill. "The art and theory of dynamic programming”. New York :

Academic Press, (1977). [4] Dorigo M. , Gi. D Caro."The ant colony optimization meta-heuristic". New York : McGraw-Hill, 1999.

[4] Grassee P.

P. .

“La reconstruction du nid et les coordinations interindividuelles chez bellicositermes

natalensis et cubitermes sp. La theorie de la stigmergie: essai d'interpretation du comportement des termites constructeurs”. Insectes Sociaux, 6:41-81, 1959.