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An Overview of Swarm Intelligence and Ant Colony Optimization Heuristics

Philipp A. Djang Ph.D. Army Research Labs

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest" (Proverbs vi 6-8)

Swarm Intelligence
Ant Colony Algorithm Solving a Traveling Salesperson

Problem Other Examples References

Swarm Intelligence
Swarm Intelligence (SI) is the property of a

system whereby the collective behaviors of (unsophisticated) agents interacting locally with their environment cause coherent functional global patterns to emerge. SI provides a basis with which it is possible to explore collective (or distributed) problem solving without centralized control or the provision of a global model. Leverage the power of complex adaptive systems to solve difficult non-linear stochastic problems

Swarm Intelligence
Characteristics of a swarm:

no central control or data

source; Limited communication No (explicit) model of the environment; Perception of environment (sensing) Ability to react to environment changes.

Swarm Intelligence
Social interactions (locally shared

knowledge) provides the basis for unguided problem solving The efficiency of the effort is related to but not dependent upon the degree or connectedness of the network and the number of interacting agents

Swarm Intelligence
Robust exemplars of problem-solving in


in stochastic hostile environment Social interaction creates complex behaviors Behaviors modified by dynamic environment.
Emergent behavior observed in: Bacteria, immune system, ants, birds And other social animals

Ants Swarm Intelligence Example

Franks observed Lasius Niger ants,

regulation of 1 degree Celsius range; forming bridges; raiding specific areas for food; building and protecting nest; sorting brood and food items; cooperating in carrying large items; emigration of a colony; finding shortest route from nest to food source; preferentially exploiting the richest food source available.

Without Any Central Leadership or Control

Ant Colony Optimization: Introduction

First proposed by M. Dorigo, 1992
Heuristic optimization method inspired by

biological systems Multi-agent approach for solving difficult combinatorial optimization problems

Traveling Salesman, vehicle routing, sequential ordering, graph coloring, routing in communications networks

Has become new and fruitful research area

Ant Colony Algorithms

Algorithm was inspired by observation

of real ant colonies. Ants are essentially blind, deaf and dumb. Ants are social creatures behavior directed to survival of colony Q: how can ants find the short path to food sources? Ants deposit pheromones on ground that form a trail. The trail attracts other ants.

Ant Colony Algorithms

Ant behavior is a kind of stochastic

distributed optimization behavior. Although one ant is capable of building a solution, it is the behavior of an ensemble of ants that exhibits the shortest path behavior. The behavior is induced by indirect communication (pheromone paths) without central control.

Ant Colony Algorithms

Ants do not know the global structure of

the problem - discover the network Limited ability to sense local environment - can only see adjacent nodes of immediate neighborhood. Each ant chooses an action based on variable probability

choice pheromone mediated

Ant Colony Algorithms

Each ant collects information about

local environment; acts concurrently and independently No direct communication: stigmergy paradigm governs information exchange Incremental constructive approach to building solutions High quality solutions emerge via global cooperation.

Indirect communication via interaction

with environment [Gass, 59, Wilson, 75]



action of agent directly related to problem solving and affects behavior of other agents.



action of agent affects environment not directly related to problem solving activity.

Pheromone Trails
Species lay pheromone trails traveling from

nest, to nest or possibly in both directions. Pheromones evaporate. Pheromones accumulate with multiple ants using path.
Nest Food source

Pheromone Trails Example

E T= 0 30 ants E T= 1

30 ants

D d=1.0 H d=1.0 d=0.5 C

15 ants H

D 15 ants C H

10 ants

D 20 ants C


15 ants

15 ants

10 ants

20 ants

30 A ants

30 A ants

Ant Colony Algorithms

Pheromone mediated following

behavior induces the emergence of shortest paths. Probability of choosing a branch of a path at a certain time depends on the total amount of pheromone on the branch. The choice is proportional to the number of ants that have used the branches.

Ant Colony Algorithms

Let um and lm be the number of ants that

have used the upper and lower branches. The probability Pu(m) with which the (m+1)th ant chooses the upper branch is:

(u m k ) P ( m) (u m k ) (l m k )
h u h

Traveling Salesperson Problem

Famous NP-Hard Optimization Problem
Given a fully connected, symmetric

G(V,E) with known edge costs, find the minimum cost tour. Artificial ants move from vertex to vertex to order to find the minimum cost tour using only pheromone mediated trails.

Traveling Salesperson Problem

The three main ideas that this ant

colony algorithm has adopted from real ant colonies are:


ants have a probabilistic preference for paths with high pheromone value Shorter paths tend to have a higher rate of growth in pheromone value It uses an indirect communication system through pheromone in edges

Traveling Salesperson Problem

Ants select the next vertex based on a

weighted probability function based on two factors:

The number of edges and the associated cost The trail (pheromone) left behind by other ant agents.

Each agent modifies the environment in two

different ways :

Local trail updating: As the ant moves between cities it updates the amount of pheromone on the edge Global trail updating: When all ants have completed a tour the ant that found the shortest route updates the edges in its path

Traveling Salesperson Problem

Local Updating is used to avoid very

strong pheromone edges and hence increase exploration (and hopefully avoid locally optimal solutions). The Global Updating function gives the shortest path higher reinforcement by increasing the amount of pheromone on the edges of the shortest path.

Empirical Results
Compared Ant Colony Algorithm to

standard algorithms and meta-heuristic algorithms on Oliver 30 a 30 city TSP Standard: 2-Opt, Lin-Kernighan, Meta-Heuristics: Tabu Search and Simulated Annealing Conducted 10 replications of each algorithm and provided averaged results

Comparison to Standard Algorithms

Examined Solution

Quality not speed; in general, standard algorithms were significantly faster. Best ACO solution 420

2-Opt L-K
Near Neighbor Far Insert Near Insert Space Fill Sweep Random 437 421 492 431 426 663 421 420 420 421 421 421

Comparison to Meta-Heuristic Algorithms

Meta-Heuristics are algorithms that can be

applied to a variety of problems with a minimum of customization. Comparing ACO to other Meta-heuristics provides a fair market comparison (vice TSP specific algorithms).
Best ACO Tabu SA 420 420 422 Mean 420.4 420.6 459.8 Std Dev 1.3 1.5 25.1

Other Application Areas

Scheduling : Scheduling is a

widespread problem of practical importance. Paul Forsyth & Anthony Wren, University of Leeds Computer Science department developed a bus driver scheduling application using ant colony concepts.

Other Application Areas

Telecommunication Networks : Network

routing refers to the activity of creating, maintaining and using routing tables (one for each node in the network) to determine where to direct an incoming data stream so that it can continue its travel through the network. In telecommunications, this is an extremely difficult problem because of the constant changes in network traffic load. The Ant Colony algorithm provides adaptive advantages that can adjust to traffic load.

Other Application Areas

Vehicle Routing Problem: The VRP is

similar to the TSP, but is complicated by multiple vehicles, vehicle capacity, pickup and drop off points (which can dictate vehicle packing and scheduling). Bernd Mullenheimer, Richard Hartl and Christine Strauss developed an Ant Colony algorithm for solving the VRP

Ant Colony Algorithms: Summary

Ant Colony Algorithms mimic Real Ants

of cooperating individuals Simulated Pheromone Trail and Stigmergy Shortest path searching with local moves Stochastic and myopic state transition policy
Artificial ants:

state transitions Pheromones based on solution quality Pheromone laying is problem dependent

Interesting Reading
Alexandrov D., Kochetov Y. Behavior of the Ant Colony

Algorithm for the Set Covering Problem, Proc. of Symposium. on Operations. Research., Springer Verlag, 2000 On the MAX/MIN Ant system, Thomas Sttzle, 2001. Hybrid Ant System for the Sequential Ordering Problems, Luca Gambardella, 2002. Parallelization Strategies for Ant Colony Optimization by Thomas Sttzle. In Proceedings of PPSN-V, Amsterdam, Springer Verlag, LNCS 1998 Improvements on the Ant System: Introducing the MAX-MIN Ant System by Thomas Sttzle. Proceedings of Artificial Neural Nets and Genetic Algorithms 1997 The Ant System Applied to the Quadratic Assignment Problem by Maniezzo, Colorni and Dorigo. Tech. Rep. IRIDIA/94-28, Universit Libre de Bruxelles 1994

Interesting Reading
Dorigo, M., Maniezzo, V., Colorni, A., The Ant

System: Optimization by a Colony of Cooperating Agents, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics-Part B, v26,n1, 1996 Rafael S. Parpinelli and Heitor S. Lopes and Alex A. Freitas, An Ant Colony Based System for Data Mining: Applications to Medical Data, Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference ({GECCO}-2001) Nicolas Monmarch, Mohamed Slimane, Gilles Venturini, AntClass: discovery of clusters in numeric data by an hybridization of an ant colony with the kmeans algorithm, 1999

On-Line Resources