Ant Colony Optimization Technique is a metaheuristics technique which is used to solve the complex selection problem in real life.

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Ant Colony Optimization Technique is a metaheuristics technique which is used to solve the complex selection problem in real life.

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Ant Colony Optimization: A New Meta-Heuristic

IRIDIA IRIDIA

Université Libre de Bruxelles Université Libre de Bruxelles

mdorigo@ulb.ac.be gdicaro@iridia.ulb.ac.be

the foraging behavior of ant colonies have been applied to

the solution of difficult discrete optimization problems. In The ACO meta-heuristic can be applied to discrete optimiza-

this paper we put these algorithms in a common frame- tion problems characterized as follows.

work by defining the Ant Colony Optimization (ACO) • C = {c1 , c2 , . . . , cNC } is a finite set of components.

meta-heuristic. A couple of paradigmatic examples of ap- • L = {lci cj | (ci , cj ) ∈ C̃}, |L| ≤ NC2 is a finite set of

plications of these novel meta-heuristic are given, as well possible connections/transitions among the elements of

as a brief overview of existing applications. C̃, where C̃ is a subset of the Cartesian product C × C.

• Jci cj ≡ J(lci cj , t) is a connection cost function associ-

1 Introduction ated to each lci cj ∈ L, possibly parameterized by some

time measure t.

In the early nineties an algorithm called ant system was

proposed as a novel heuristic approach for the solution of • Ω ≡ Ω(C, L, t) is a finite set of constraints assigned

combinatorial optimization problems (Dorigo et al., 1991; over the elements of C and L.

Dorigo, 1992; Dorigo et al., 1996). Ant system (AS), which • s = hci , cj , . . . , ck , . . .i is a sequence over the elements

was first applied to the traveling salesman problem, was re- of C (or, equivalently, of L). A sequence s is also

cently extended and/or modified both to improve its perfor- called a state of the problem. If S is the set of all pos-

mance and to apply it to other optimization problems. Im- sible sequences, the set S̃ of all the (sub)sequences that

proved versions of AS include, among others, ACS (Dorigo are feasible with respect to the constraints Ω(C, L, t),

& Gambardella, 1997), MAX –MIN Ant System (Stützle is a subset of S. The elements in S̃ define the problem’s

& Hoos, 1998b), and ASrank (Bullnheimer et al., 1997b). feasible states. The length of a sequence s, that is, the

All these algorithms have been applied to the TSP with vary- number of components in the sequence, is expressed by

ing degree of success, but always improving over AS perfor- |s|.

mance. These improved versions, as well as the original AS, • Given two states s1 and s2 a neighborhood structure is

have also been applied to a diverse set of optimization prob- defined as follows: the state s2 is said to be a neighbor

lems. Examples are quadratic assignment (Maniezzo et al., of s1 if both s1 and s2 are in S, and the state s2 can

1994; Stützle & Hoos, 1998a), vehicle routing (Bullnheimer be reached from s1 in one logical step (that is, if c1

et al., 1997a; Gambardella et al., 1999), connection oriented is the last component in the sequence determining the

and connectionless network routing (Schoonderwoerd et al., state s1 , it must exists c2 ∈ C such that lc1 c2 ∈ L

1996; Di Caro & Dorigo, 1998; Di Caro & Dorigo, 1998), and s2 ≡ hs1 , c2 i). The neighborhood of a state s is

sequential ordering (Gambardella & Dorigo, 1997), graph denoted by Ns .

coloring (Costa & Hertz, 1997), shortest common superse- • ψ is a solution if it is an element of S̃ and satisfies all

quence (Michel & Middendorf, 1998), single machine tardi- the problem’s requirements. A multi-dimensional solu-

ness (Bauer et al., 1999), multiple knapsack (Leguizamón & tion is a solution defined in terms of multiple distinct

Michalewicz, 1999), etc. For many of these problems, the re- sequences over the elements of C.

sults obtained place the ant system based approaches among

the best available heuristics. • Jψ (L, t) is a cost associated to each solution ψ.

In this paper we present the Ant Colony Optimization Jψ (L, t) is a function of all the costs Jci cj of all the

(ACO) meta-heuristic, that is, the result of an effort to de- connections belonging to the solution ψ.

fine a common framework for all these versions of AS. The Consider the graph G = (C, L) associated to a given discrete

main motivations for defining the ACO meta-heuristic are the optimization problem instance as defined above. The solu-

desire to provide a unitary view of the ongoing research in tions to the optimization problem can be expressed in terms

this growing field, as well as the hope that such a charac- of feasible paths on the graph G. ACO algorithms can be used

terization will help to identify the most important aspects of to find minimum cost paths (sequences) feasible with respect

these algorithms and therefore make the development of new to the constraints Ω. For example, in the traveling salesman

applications easier. problem, C is the set of cities, L is the set of arcs connecting

cities, and a solution ψ is an Hamiltonian circuit. freeing all the allocated resources.

ACO algorithms, that is, instances of the ACO meta- Although each ant of the colony is complex enough to find

heuristic introduced in the following of this section, use a a feasible solution to the problem under consideration, good

population of ants to collectively solve the optimization prob- quality solutions can only emerge as the result of the collec-

lem under consideration by using the above defined graph tive interaction among the ants. Each ant makes use only

representation. Information collected by the ants during the of private information and of information local to the node

search process is stored in pheromone trails τij associated to it is visiting (note that we use the terms node and compo-

connections lij . (Here and in the following, we simplify no- nent, as well as arc and connection/transition, as synonyms),

tation by referring to lci cj as lij .) Pheromone trails encode a and communication among ants is indirect and is mediated

long-term memory about the whole ant search process. De- by the information they read/write in the variables storing

pending on the problem representation chosen, pheromone pheromone trail values. Ants adaptively modify the way the

trails can be associated to all problem’s arcs, or only to some problem is represented and perceived by other ants, but they

of them. Arcs can also have an associated heuristic value ηij are not adaptive themselves.

representing a priori information about the problem instance Informally, the behavior of ants in an ACO algorithm can

definition or run-time information provided by a source dif- be summarized as follows. A colony of ants concurrently and

ferent from the ants. asynchronously move through adjacent states of the problem

Ants of the colony have the following properties: by moving through neighbor nodes of G. They move by ap-

• An ant searches for minimum cost feasible solutions plying a stochastic local decision policy that makes use of

Jˆψ = minψ Jψ (L, t). the information contained in the node-local ant-routing ta-

• An ant k has a memory Mk that it can use to store bles. By moving, ants incrementally build solutions to the

information on the path it followed so far. Memory optimization problem. Once an ant has built a solution, or

can be used to build feasible solutions, to evaluate the while the solution is being built, the ant evaluates the (partial)

solution found, and to retrace the path backward. solution and deposits information about its goodness on the

pheromone trails of the connections it used. This pheromone

• An ant k in state sr = hsr−1 , ii can move to any node

information will direct the search of the future ants.

j in its feasible neighborhood Nik , defined as Nik =

Besides ants’ activity, an ACO algorithm includes two

{j | (j ∈ Ni ) ∧ (hsr , ji ∈ S̃)}.

more procedures: pheromone trail evaporation and daemon

• An ant k can be assigned a start state sks and one or actions. Pheromone evaporation is the process by means of

more termination conditions ek . Usually, the start state which the pheromone trail intensity on the connections au-

is expressed as a unit length sequence, that is, a single tomatically decreases over time. From a practical point of

component. view, pheromone evaporation is needed to avoid a too rapid

• Ants start from the start state and move to feasible convergence of the algorithm towards a sub-optimal region.

neighbor states, building the solution in an incremen- It implements a useful form of forgetting, favoring the explo-

tal way. The construction procedure stops when for at ration of new areas of the search space.

least one ant k at least one of the termination conditions Daemon actions, that are an optional component of the

ek is satisfied. ACO meta-heuristic, can be used to implement centralized

• An ant k located on node i can move to a node j chosen actions which cannot be performed by single ants. Examples

in Nik . The move is selected applying a probabilistic are the activation of a local optimization procedure, or the

decision rule. collection of global information that can be used to decide

whether it is useful or not to deposit additional pheromone

• The ants’ probabilistic decision rule is a function of (i)

to bias the search process from a non-local perspective. As a

the values stored in a node local data structure Ai =

practical example, the daemon can observe the path found by

[aij ] called ant-routing table, obtained by a functional

each ant in the colony and choose to deposit extra pheromone

composition of node locally available pheromone trails

on the arcs used by the ant that made the shortest path.

and heuristic values, (ii) the ant’s private memory stor-

Pheromone updates performed by the daemon are called off-

ing its past history, and (iii) the problem constraints.

line pheromone updates.

• When moving from node i to neighbor node j the ant In Figure 1 the ACO meta-heuristic is described in pseudo-

can update the pheromone trail τij on the arc (i, j). code. The main procedure of the ACO meta-heuristic

This is called online step-by-step pheromone update. manages, via the schedule activities construct, the

• Once built a solution, the ant can retrace the same path scheduling of the three above discussed components of an

backward and update the pheromone trails on the tra- ACO algorithm: ants’ generation and activity, pheromone

versed arcs. This is called online delayed pheromone evaporation, and daemon actions. It is important to note

update. that the schedule activities construct does not spec-

• Once it has built a solution, and, if the case, after it has ify how these three activities are scheduled and synchronized

retraced the path back to the source node, the ant dies, and, in particular, whether they should be executed in a com-

1 procedure ACO meta-heuristic()

2 while (termination criterion not satisfied)

• Those shortest path problems in which the properties

3 schedule activities of the problem’s graph representation change over time

4 ants generation and activity();

5 pheromone evaporation();

concurrently with the optimization process, that has to

6 daemon actions(); {optional} adapt to the problem’s dynamics. In this case, the prob-

7 end schedule activities

8 end while

lem’s graph can even be physically available (like in

9 end procedure networks problems), but its properties, like the value of

connection costs Jci cj (t), can change over time. In this

1 procedure ants generation and activity()

2 while (available resources) case we conjecture that the use of ACO algorithms be-

3 schedule the creation of a new ant(); comes more and more appropriate as the variation rate

4 new active ant();

5 end while of costs Jci cj (t) increases and/or the knowledge about

6 end procedure the variation process diminishes.

1 procedure new active ant() {ant lifecycle} • Those problems in which the computational architec-

2 initialize ant(); ture is spatially distributed, as in the case of parallel

3 M = update ant memory();

4 while (current state 6= target state) and/or network processing. Here ACO algorithms, due

5 A = read local ant-routing table(); to their intrinsically distributed and multi-agent nature

6 P = compute transition probabilities(A, M, Ω);

7 next state = apply ant decision policy(P, Ω); that well matches these types of architectures, can be

8 move to next state(next state); very effective.

9 if (online step-by-step pheromone update)

9 deposit pheromone on the visited arc(); In the following section we will consider the application of

10 update ant-routing table(); the ACO-meta-heuristic to two paradigmatic problems be-

11 end if

11 M = update internal state(); longing to the above defined classes of problems: the trav-

12 end while eling salesman problem (TSP) and adaptive routing in com-

13 if (online delayed pheromone update)

13 foreach visited arc ∈ ψ do munications networks. TSP is the prototypical representative

14 deposit pheromone on the visited arc(); of NP-hard combinatorial optimization problems (Garey &

15 update ant-routing table();

16 end foreach Johnson, 1979) where the problem instance is statically as-

17 end if signed and the information is globally available. On the con-

17 die();

18 end procedure

trary, in the problem of adaptive routing in communications

networks an exogenous process (the incoming data traffic)

Figure 1: The ACO meta-heuristic. In the ACO meta heuristic() makes the problem instance change over time, and temporal

procedure, the procedure daemon actions() (line 6) is optional. When constraints impose to solve the problem in a distributed way.

implemented, it refers to centralized actions executed by a daemon possess-

ing global knowledge. In the new active ant() procedure, the tar-

get state (line 4) refers to a complete solution built by the ant, while 3 ACO for the traveling salesman problem

the step-by-step and delayed pheromone updating procedures at lines 9-10

and 14-15 are often mutually exclusive. When both of them are absent the Using the terminology introduced in the previous section, the

pheromone is deposited by the daemon. Comments are enclosed in braces.

traveling salesman problem can be defined as follows. Let

C be a set of components, representing cities, L be a set of

pletely parallel and independent way, or if some kind of syn- connections fully connecting the elements in C, and Jci cj be

chronization among them is necessary. This leaves the de- the cost (length) of the connection between ci and cj , that is,

signer the freedom to specify the way these three procedures the distance between cities i and j. The TSP is the problem

should interact. of finding a minimal length Hamiltonian circuit on the graph

Although ACO algorithms are suitable to find minimum G = (C, L). An Hamiltonian circuit of graph G is a closed

cost (shortest) paths on a graph in general, it is important to tour ψ visiting once and only once all the NC nodes of G. Its

note that they are an interesting approach only for those short- length is given by the sum of the lengths Jci cj of all the arcs

est path problems to which more classical algorithms like dy- of which it is composed. Distances may be asymmetric: we

namic programming or label correcting methods (Bertsekas, have then an asymmetric TSP in which Jci cj can be different

1995) cannot be efficiently applied. This is the case, for ex- from Jcj ci . Also, the graph need not be fully connected: if it

ample, for the following types of shortest path problems: is not, the missing arcs can be added giving them a very high

length.

• NP-hard problems, for which the dimension of the full

The traveling salesman problem plays a central role in ant

state-space graph is exponential in the dimension of the

colony optimization because it was the first problem to be at-

problem representation. In this case, ants make use of

tacked by these methods (see (Dorigo, 1992; Dorigo et al.,

the much smaller graph G, built from the problem’s

1991; Dorigo et al., 1996)). Among the reasons the TSP was

components, and use their memory to generate feasible

chosen we find the following ones: (i) it is relatively easy

solutions which in most ACO implementations are then

to adapt the ant colony metaphor to it, (ii) it is a very dif-

taken to a local optimum by a problem specific local

ficult problem (NP-hard), (iii) it is one of the most studied

optimizer.

problems in combinatorial optimization (Lawler et al., 1985;

Reinelt, 1994), and (iv) it is very easy to state and explain it, The memory (or internal state) Mk of each ant contains

so that the algorithm behavior is not obscured by too many the already visited cities. The memory Mk is used to define,

technicalities. for each ant k, the set of cities that an ant located on city i still

In the following we will present Ant System, a paradig- has to visit. By exploiting Mk an ant k can build feasible so-

matic example of how ACO algorithms can be applied to the lutions, that is, it can avoid to visit a city twice. Also, memory

TSP. Extensions of Ant System can be found, for example, allows the ant to compute the length of the tour generated and

in (Bullnheimer et al., 1997b; Dorigo & Gambardella, 1997; to cover the same path backward to deposit pheromone on the

Stützle & Hoos, 1998b). visited arcs.

Ant System (AS) can be informally described as follows. The ant-routing table Ai = [aij (t)] of node i, where Ni is

A number m of ants is positioned in parallel on m cities. The the set of all the neighbor nodes of node i, is obtained by the

ants’ start state, that is, the start city, can be chosen randomly, following functional composition of pheromone trails τij (t)

and the memory Mk of each ant k is initialized by adding the and local heuristic values ηij :

current start city to the set of already visited cities (initially

empty). Ants then enter a cycle (Figure 1, lines 4 → 12 of the [τij (t)]α [ηij ]β

aij = X ∀j ∈ Ni (1)

new active ant() procedure) which lasts NC iterations, [τil (t)]α [ηil ]β

that is, until each ant has completed a tour. l∈Ni

During each step an ant located on node i considers

where α and β are two parameters that control the relative

the feasible neighborhood, reads the entries aij ’s of the

weight of pheromone trail and heuristic value. The heuristic

ant-routing table Ai of node i (Figure 1, line 5 of the

values used are ηij = 1/Jci cj , where Jci cj is the distance

new active ant() procedure), computes the transition

between cities i and j. In other words, the shorter the distance

probabilities (line 6), and then applies its decision rule to

between two cities i and j, the higher the heuristic value ηij .

choose the city to move to (line 7), moves to the new city

The probability pkij (t) with which at the t-th algorithm it-

(line 8), and updates its memory (line 11). Note that, because

in AS there is no online step-by-step pheromone update, in- eration an ant k located in city i chooses the city j ∈ Nik to

structions at lines 9 and 10 of the new active ant() pro- move to is given by the following probabilistic decision rule:

cedure of Figure 1 are not executed. aij (t)

Once ants have completed a tour (which happens syn- pkij (t) = X (2)

chronously, given that during each iteration of the while loop ail (t)

each ant adds a new city to the tour under construction), they l∈Nik

use their memory to evaluate the built solution and to re- where Nik ⊆ Ni is the feasible neighborhood of node i

trace the same tour backward and increase the intensity of for ant k (that is, the set of cities ant k has not yet visited) as

the pheromone trails τij of visited connections lij (Figure 1, defined by using the ant private memory Mk and the problem

lines 13 → 16). This has the effect of making the visited con- constraints.

nections become more desirable for future ants. Then the ants The role of the parameters α and β is the following. If

die, freeing all the allocated resources. In AS all the ants de- α = 0, the closest cities are more likely to be selected: this

posit pheromone and no problem-specific daemon actions are corresponds to a classical stochastic greedy algorithm (with

performed. The triggering of pheromone evaporation hap- multiple starting points since ants are initially randomly dis-

pens after all ants have completed their tours. Of course, it tributed on the nodes). If on the contrary β = 0, only

would be easy to add a local optimization daemon action, like pheromone amplification is at work: this method will lead

a 3-opt procedure (Lin, 1965); this has been done in most of to the rapid emergence of a stagnation, that is, a situation

the ACO algorithms for the TSP that have been developed as in which all ants make the same tour which, in general, is

extensions of AS (see for example (Dorigo & Gambardella, strongly sub-optimal (Dorigo et al., 1996). An appropriate

1997; Stützle & Hoos, 1998a)). trade-off has to be set between heuristic value and trail inten-

The amount of pheromone trail τij (t) maintained on con- sity.

nection lij is intended to represent the learned desirability of After all ants have completed their tour, each ant k de-

choosing city j when in city i (which also corresponds to the posits a quantity of pheromone ∆τ k (t) = 1/Jψk (t) on each

desirability that arc lij belongs to the tour built by an ant).

connection lij that it has used, where Jψk (t) is the length of

The pheromone trail information is changed during prob-

lem solution to reflect the experience acquired by ants during tour ψ k (t) done by ant k at iteration t:

problem solving. Ants deposit an amount of pheromone pro-

τij (t) ← τij (t) + ∆τ k (t),

∀ lij ∈ ψ k (t), k = 1, . . . , m

portional to the quality of the solutions ψ they produced: the

(3)

shorter the tour generated by an ant, the greater the amount

where the number m of ants at each iteration is maintained

of pheromone it deposits on the arcs which it used to gener-

constant) and is set to m = NC . These parameters settings,

ate the tour. This choice helps to direct search towards good

as well as the settings α = 1, β = 5 and ρ = 0.5, were

solutions.

experimentally found to be good by Dorigo (Dorigo, 1992).

This way of setting the value ∆τ k (t) makes it a function of part of the whole problem solution, defined in terms of paths

the ant’s performance: the shorter the tour done, the greater between all the pairs (i, j) in the network, (ii) the costs asso-

the amount of pheromone deposited. ciated to the connections are not statically assigned: they de-

After pheromone updating has been performed by the pend on the connection’s physical properties and on the traf-

ants1 , pheromone evaporation is triggered: the following rule fic crossing the connection, that interacts recursively with the

is applied to all the arcs lij of the graph G routing decisions.

In the following subsection we present a simplified version

τij (t) ← (1 − ρ)τij (t) (4) of the AntNet algorithm. A full description of AntNet can be

found in (Di Caro & Dorigo, 1998).

where ρ ∈ (0, 1] is the pheromone trail decay coefficient (the

initial amount of pheromone τij (0) is set to a small positive

4.1 AntNet

constant value τ0 on all arcs).

In AntNet, each ant searches for a minimum cost path be-

4 ACO for routing in communications networks tween a pair of nodes of the network. Ants are launched from

each network node towards destination nodes randomly se-

The generic routing problem in communications networks lected to match the traffic patterns. Each ant has a source

can be informally stated as the problem of building and us- node s and a destination node d, and moves from s to d hop-

ing routing tables to direct data traffic so that some measure ping from one node to the next till node d is reached. When

of network performance, function of the network type and of ant k is in node i, it chooses the next node j to move to ac-

the services provided, is maximized. cording to a probabilistic decision rule which is a function of

We can use the terminology introduced in Section 2 to give the ant’s memory Mk and of the local ant-routing table Ai .

a formal definition of the routing problem. Let the sets C and Pheromone trails are still connected to arcs, but are mem-

L correspond respectively to the sets of processing nodes and orized in variables associated to arc-destination pairs. That is,

of communication links of the real network. Let G = (C, L) each directed arc (i, j) has NC − 1 trail values τijd ∈ [0, 1]

be a directed graph, where each node in the set C represents a associated, one for each possible destination node d an ant

network node with processing/queuing and forwarding capa- located in node i can have (therefore, in general, τijd 6= τjid ).

bilities, and each oriented arc in L is a directional transmis- Each arc has also associated an heuristic value ηij ∈ [0, 1]

sion system (link). Each link has associated a cost measure independent of the final destination. The heuristic values are

defined by its physical properties and crossing traffic flow. set to the following values:

Network applications generate data flows from source to des- qij

tination nodes. For each node in the network, the local rout- ηij = 1 − P (5)

l∈Ni qil

ing component uses the local routing table to choose the best

outgoing link to direct incoming data towards their destina- where qij is the length (in bits waiting to be sent) of the

tion nodes. The routing table Ri = [rijd ] of a generic node queue of the link connecting node i with its neighbor j.

i, where Ni is the set of neighbors of i, says to data pack- In AntNet, as well as in most other implementations of

ets entering node i and directed towards destination node d ACO algorithms for routing problems, the daemon compo-

which should be the next node j ∈ Ni to move to. Routing nent (line 6 of the ACO meta-heuristic of Figure 1) is not

tables are bi-dimensional because the choice of the neighbor present.

node to which a data packet entering a generic node i should The local ant-routing table Ai is obtained by a functional

be forwarded is a function of the packet destination node d. composition of the local pheromone trails τijd and heuristic

Ant-routing tables possess the same bi-dimensional structure: values ηij . While building the path to the destination, ants

pheromone trails associated to each connection are vectors of move using the same link queues as data. In this way ants

NC − 1 values. In fact, ant-routing tables, in all the ACO experience the same delays as data packets and the time Tsd

implementations for routing, are used to build the routing ta- elapsed while moving from the source node s to the destina-

bles by means of implementation-dependent transformations. tion node d can be used as a measure of the path quality. The

These vectorial pheromone trails are the natural extension of overall “goodness” of a path can be evaluated by an heuristic

the scalar trails used for the TSP. function of the trip time Tsd and of a local adaptive statisti-

Other important differences with the TSP implementation cal model maintained in each node. In fact, paths need to be

arise from the different nature of the two problems: (i) each evaluated relative to the network status because a trip time T

ant is assigned a defined pair (s, d) of start-destination nodes judged of low quality under low congestion conditions could

and, discovering a path between s and d, the ant builds only a be an excellent one under high traffic load. Once the generic

1 It should be noted that in the original ant system (Dorigo, 1992; Dorigo

ant k has completed a path, it deposits on the visited nodes an

amount of pheromone ∆τ k (t) proportional to the goodness

et al., 1991) pheromone evaporation was performed before pheromone up-

dating. The algorithm presented here and the original one are exactly of the path it built. To this purpose, after reaching its desti-

the same if the values ∆τ k (t) used in Equation 3 are set to ∆τ k (t) = nation node, the ant moves back to its source nodes along the

1/((1 − ρ) · Jψ k (t)).

same path but backward and using high priority queues, to 5 Other ACO meta-heuristic applications

allow a fast propagation of the collected information.

During this backward path from d to s the ant k increases There are now available numerous successful implementa-

the pheromone trail value τijd (t) of each connection lij previ- tions of the ACO meta-heuristic applied to a number of dif-

ously used while it was moving from s to d. The pheromone ferent combinatorial optimization problems.

trail intensity is increased by applying the following rule: The most widely studied problems using ACO algorithms

are the traveling salesman problem and the quadratic assign-

τijd (t) ← τijd (t) + ∆τ k (t) (6) ment problem (QAP).

Results obtained by the application of ACO algorithms to

The reason the ant updates the pheromone trails during its the TSP are very encouraging (see (Stützle & Dorigo, 1999b)

backward trip is that, before it can compute the amount of for an overview of applications of ACO algorithms to the

pheromone ∆τ k (t) to deposit on the visited arcs it needs to TSP): they are often better than those obtained using other

complete a path from source to destination to evaluate it. general purpose heuristics like evolutionary computation or

After the pheromone trail on the visited arc has been up- simulated annealing. Also, when adding to ACO algorithms

dated, the pheromone value of all the outgoing connections rather unsophisticated local search procedures based on 3-

of the same node i, relative to the destination d, evaporates:2 opt (Lin, 1965), the quality of the results obtained (Dorigo

& Gambardella, 1997) is close to that obtainable by more so-

τijd (t)

τijd (t) ← , ∀j ∈ Ni (7) phisticated methods. More research will be necessary to as-

(1 + ∆τ k (t)) sess whether ACO algorithms can reach the performance of

where Ni is the set of neighbors of node i. state-of-the-art algorithms like Iterated Lin-Kernighan (John-

son & McGeoch, 1997).

As we said, AntNet’s ant-routing table Ai = [aijd (t)] As in the TSP case, the first application of an ACO al-

of node i is obtained, as usual, by the composition of the gorithm to the QAP has been that of Ant System (Maniezzo

pheromone trail values with the local heuristic values. This is et al., 1994). In the last two years several ACO algorithms

done as follows: for the QAP have been presented by Maniezzo and Colorni

(Maniezzo & Colorni, 1999, in press), Maniezzo (Maniezzo,

wτijd (t) + (1 − w)ηij 1998), and Stützle (Stützle & Hoos, 1998a). Currently, ACO

aijd (t) = (8)

w + (1 − w)(|Ni | − 1) algorithms are among the best heuristics for attacking real-

where j ∈ Ni , d is the destination node, w ∈ [0, 1] is a life QAP instances3 . We refer to (Stützle & Dorigo, 1999a)

weighting factor and the denominator is a normalization term. for an overview of these approaches.

The ants decision rule is then defined as follows. Let, at The sequential ordering problem is closely related to the

time t, ant k be located on node i and be directed towards asymmetric TSP, but additional precedence constraints be-

node d. If Ni 6⊆ Mk , that is, if there is at least one city tween the nodes have to be satisfied. Gambardella and Dorigo

in the ant’s current location neighborhood that ant k has not have tackled this problem by an extension of ACS enhanced

visited yet, then the ant chooses the next node j ∈ Ni with by a local search algorithm (Gambardella & Dorigo, 1997).

probability They obtained excellent results and were able to improve the

½ best known solutions for many benchmark instances.

aijd (t) / Mk

if j ∈ A first application of AS to the job-shop scheduling prob-

pkijd (t) = (9)

0 if j ∈ Mk lem has been presented in (Colorni et al., 1994). Despite

showing the viability of the approach, the computational

otherwise, the ant chooses a city j ∈ Ni with uniform prob-

results are not competitive with state-of-the-art algorithms.

ability: pkijd (t) = 1/(|Ni |). (Note that in AntNet, differently

More recently, MMAS has been applied to the flow shop

from what happens in Ant System, the neighborhood and the

scheduling problem (FSP) in (Stützle, 1998). The computa-

feasible neighborhood are the same, that is, Nik ≡ Ni .)

tional results have shown that MMAS outperforms earlier

In other words, ants try to avoid cycles (Equation 9) but,

proposed Simulated Annealing algorithms, while it performs

in the case all the nodes in i’s neighborhood have already

comparably to Tabu Search. Another very recent applica-

been visited by the ant, the ant has no choice and it has to

tion is that to the single machine total tardiness problem, dis-

re-visit a node, generating in this way a cycle. In this case

cussed in a paper published in these same proceedings (Bauer

the generated cycle is deleted from the ant memory, that for-

et al., 1999). Again, the results obtained are very promising.

gets completely about it. Considering the stochasticity of the

Costa and Herz (Costa & Hertz, 1997) have proposed an

decision rule and the evolution in the traffic conditions, it is

extension of AS to assignment type problems and present

very unlikely that the ant repeats the same cycle over and over

an application of their approach to the graph coloring prob-

again.

3 Another very good algorithm inspired by the ant colony metaphor is

2 In this case the decay factor is chosen so that it operates a normalization HAS-QAP (Gambardella et al., 1997). It is not listed with the others above

of the pheromone values which continue therefore to be usable as probabili- because it doesn’t follow the ACO meta-heuristic.

ties.

lem obtaining results comparable to those obtained by other 7 Acknowledgments

heuristic approaches.

An application of ASrank to the capacitated vehicle Marco Dorigo is a Research Associate of the Belgian FNRS.

routing problem is presented by Bullnheimer, Hartl, and Gianni Di Caro was supported by a Madame Curie Fellow-

Strauss (Bullnheimer et al., 1997a). They obtained good ship (CEC-TMR Contract N. ERBFMBICT 961153).

computational results for standard benchmark instances,

slightly worse than the best performing Tabu Search algo- References

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