Artificial ants solve network problems

September 13, 2001 | Source: BBC News

Researchers have found that control programs based on the foraging behaviour of ants can keep data networks running more efficiently and cope with congestion better than many human alternatives.
Marco Dorigo and colleagues at the Free University of Brussels are creating small, smart computer programs based on ant foraging. Many individual ants may discover different routes to the same food but the shortest path that leads to it will have the strongest concentration of pheromone, a chemical indicator laid down by the ants.

Professor Dorigo and his colleagues have created artificial ants that can lay and sniff virtual pheromone trails and can learn their way around a network. By simply laying and smelling the strength of the pheromones along each potential path, the ants swiftly generated maps that showed the fastest route to any end point.

When congestion was simulated on the artificial networks, the ants beat all the other popular routing systems in the speed with which they reconfigured the network to avoid the traffic jams.