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Ant Colony Optimization

Theresa Meggie
Barker von Haartman
IE 516 Spring 2005

ACO Concept
Ants (blind) navigate from nest to food
Shortest path is discovered via pheromone
each ant moves at random
pheromone is deposited on path
ants detect lead ants path, inclined to follow
more pheromone on path increases probability of
path being followed

ACO System
Virtual trail accumulated on path segments
Starting node selected at random
Path selected at random
based on amount of trail present on possible
paths from starting node
higher probability for paths with more trail
Ant reaches next node, selects next path
Continues until reaches starting node
Finished tour is a solution

ACO System, cont.
A completed tour is analyzed for optimality
Trail amount adjusted to favor better
better solutions receive more trail
worse solutions receive less trail
higher probability of ant selecting path that is
part of a better-performing tour
New cycle is performed
Repeated until most ants select the same tour
on every cycle (convergence to solution)

ACO System, cont.
Often applied to TSP (Travelling Salesman
Problem): shortest path between n nodes
Algorithm in Pseudocode:
Initialize Trail
Do While (Stopping Criteria Not Satisfied) Cycle Loop
Do Until (Each Ant Completes a Tour) Tour Loop
Local Trail Update
End Do
Analyze Tours
Global Trail Update
End Do

Discrete optimization problems difficult
to solve
Soft computing techniques developed
in past ten years:
Genetic algorithms (GAs)
based on natural selection and genetics
Ant Colony Optimization (ACO)
modeling ant colony behavior

Background, cont.
Developed by Marco Dorigo (Milan,
Italy), and others in early 1990s
Some common applications:
Quadratic assignment problems
Scheduling problems
Dynamic routing problems in networks
Theoretical analysis difficult
algorithm is based on a series of random decisions
(by artificial ants)
probability of decisions changes on each iteration

Ant Algorithms
Ant Algorithms
Can be used for both Static and
Dynamic Combinatorial optimization
Convergence is guaranteed, although the
speed is unknown
The Algorithm
Ant Colony Algorithms are typically use
to solve minimum cost problems.
We may usually have N nodes and A
undirected arcs
There are two working modes for the
ants: either forwards or backwards.
Pheromones are only deposited in
backward mode.
The Algorithm
The ants memory allows them to retrace
the path it has followed while searching
for the destination node
Before moving backward on their
memorized path, they eliminate any
loops from it. While moving backwards,
the ants leave pheromones on the arcs
they traversed.
The Algorithm
The ants evaluate the cost of the paths
they have traversed.
The shorter paths will receive a greater
deposit of pheromones. An evaporation
rule will be tied with the pheromones,
which will reduce the chance for poor
quality solutions.
The Algorithm
At the beginning of the search process,
a constant amount of pheromone is
assigned to all arcs. When located at a
node i an ant k uses the pheromone
trail to compute the probability of
choosing j as the next node:

where is the neighborhood of ant k
when in node i.
ij k
ij l N
if j N
if j N

The Algorithm
When the arc (i,j) is traversed , the
pheromone value changes as follows:

By using this rule, the probability
increases that forthcoming ants will use
this arc.
ij ij
t t t +A
The Algorithm
After each ant k has moved to the next
node, the pheromones evaporate by the
following equation to all the arcs:

where is a parameter. An
iteration is a completer cycle involving
ants movement, pheromone evaporation,
and pheromone deposit.
(1 ) , ( , )
ij ij
p i j A t t e
(0,1] pe
Steps for Solving a Problem
by ACO
1. Represent the problem in the form of sets of
components and transitions, or by a set of weighted
graphs, on which ants can build solutions
2. Define the meaning of the pheromone trails
3. Define the heuristic preference for the ant while
constructing a solution
4. If possible implement a efficient local search
algorithm for the problem to be solved.
5. Choose a specific ACO algorithm and apply to
problem being solved
6. Tune the parameter of the ACO algorithm.

Efficiently Solves NP hard Problems
TSP (Traveling Salesman Problem)
Vehicle Routing
Sequential Ordering
QAP (Quadratic Assignment Problem)
Graph Coloring
Generalized Assignment
Frequency Assignment
University Course Time Scheduling

Job Shop
Open Shop
Flow Shop
Total tardiness (weighted/non-weighted)
Project Scheduling
Group Shop
Max Independent Set
Redundancy Allocation
Set Covering
Weight Constrained Graph Tree partition
Arc-weighted L cardinality tree
Maximum Clique
Shortest Common Sequence
Constraint Satisfaction
2D-HP protein folding
Bin Packing
Machine Learning
Classification Rules
Bayesian networks
Fuzzy systems
Network Routing
Connection oriented network routing
Connection network routing
Optical network routing
Advantages and
Advantages and Disadvantages
For TSPs (Traveling Salesman Problem), relatively efficient
for a small number of nodes, TSPs can be solved by
exhaustive search
for a large number of nodes, TSPs are very computationally
difficult to solve (NP-hard) exponential time to

Performs better against other global optimization techniques
for TSP (neural net, genetic algorithms, simulated annealing)

Compared to GAs (Genetic Algorithms):
retains memory of entire colony instead of previous
generation only
less affected by poor initial solutions (due to combination of
random path selection and colony memory)

Advantages and Disadvantages,
Can be used in dynamic applications (adapts to
changes such as new distances, etc.)

Has been applied to a wide variety of

As with GAs, good choice for constrained
discrete problems (not a gradient-based

Advantages and Disadvantages,
Theoretical analysis is difficult:
Due to sequences of random decisions (not
Probability distribution changes by
Research is experimental rather than

Convergence is guaranteed, but time to
convergence uncertain
Advantages and Disadvantages,
Tradeoffs in evaluating convergence:
In NP-hard problems, need high-quality solutions quickly
focus is on quality of solutions
In dynamic network routing problems, need solutions for
changing conditions focus is on effective evaluation of
alternative paths

Coding is somewhat complicated, not straightforward
Pheromone trail additions/deletions, global updates and
local updates
Large number of different ACO algorithms to exploit
different problem characteristics

Dorigo, Marco and Sttzle, Thomas. (2004) Ant Colony
Optimization, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Dorigo, Marco, Gambardella, Luca M., Middendorf, Martin.
(2002) Guest Editorial, IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary
Computation, 6(4): 317-320.
Thompson, Jonathan, Ant Colony Optimization.,
accessed April 24, 2005.
Camp, Charles V., Bichon, Barron, J. and Stovall, Scott P. (2005)
Design of Steel Frames Using Ant Colony Optimization, Journal
of Structural Engineeering, 131 (3):369-379.
Fjalldal, Johann Bragi, An Introduction to Ant Colony
/atc/1999/web/johannf/ants.html, accessed April 24, 2005.