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Collaborative search on the plane without communication

Ofer Feinerman 1, * Amos Korman 2, 3 Zvi Lotker 4, 5 Jean-Sébastien Sereni 6
* Corresponding author
3 GANG - Networks, Graphs and Algorithms
LIAFA - Laboratoire d'informatique Algorithmique : Fondements et Applications, Inria Paris-Rocquencourt
6 MASCOTTE - Algorithms, simulation, combinatorics and optimization for telecommunications
CRISAM - Inria Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée , Laboratoire I3S - COMRED - COMmunications, Réseaux, systèmes Embarqués et Distribués
Abstract : We generalize the classical cow-path problem [7, 14, 38, 39] into a question that is relevant for collective foraging in animal groups. Specifically, we consider a setting in which k identical (probabilistic) agents, initially placed at some central location, collectively search for a treasure in the two-dimensional plane. The treasure is placed at a target location by an adversary and the goal is to find it as fast as possible as a function of both k and D, where D is the distance between the central location and the target. This is biologically motivated by cooperative, central place foraging such as performed by ants around their nest. In this type of search there is a strong preference to locate nearby food sources before those that are further away. Our focus is on trying to find what can be achieved if communication is limited or altogether absent. Indeed, to avoid overlaps agents must be highly dispersed making communication difficult. Furthermore, if agents do not commence the search in synchrony then even initial communication is problematic. This holds, in particular, with respect to the question of whether the agents can communicate and conclude their total number, k. It turns out that the knowledge of k by the individual agents is crucial for performance. Indeed, it is a straightforward observation that the time required for finding the treasure is Ω(D + D 2 /k), and we show in this paper that this bound can be matched if the agents have knowledge of k up to some constant approximation. We present an almost tight bound for the competitive penalty that must be paid, in the running time, if agents have no information about k. Specifically, on the negative side, we show that in such a case, there is no algorithm whose competitiveness is O(log k). On the other hand, we show that for every constant $\epsilon > 0$, there exists a rather simple uniform search algorithm which is $O( \log^{1+\epsilon} k)$-competitive. In addition, we give a lower bound for the setting in which agents are given some estimation of k. As a special case, this lower bound implies that for any constant $\epsilon > 0$, if each agent is given a (one-sided) $k^\epsilon$-approximation to k, then the competitiveness is Ω(log k). Informally, our results imply that the agents can potentially perform well without any knowledge of their total number k, however, to further improve, they must be given a relatively good approximation of k. Finally, we propose a uniform algorithm that is both efficient and extremely simple suggesting its relevance for actual biological scenarios.
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Contributor : Amos Korman Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 8:58:30 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 11:16:24 AM


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Ofer Feinerman, Amos Korman, Zvi Lotker, Jean-Sébastien Sereni. Collaborative search on the plane without communication. ACM Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing, PODC 2012, Jul 2012, Madeira, Portugal. ⟨10.1145/2332432.2332444⟩. ⟨hal-01241094v2⟩



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