Ants build cheapest networks

 

Supercolony trails follow mathematical Steiner tree.

An interdisciplinary study of ant colonies that live in several, connected nests has revealed a natural tendency toward networks that require the minimum amount of trail.

Researchers studied ‘supercolonies’ of Argentine ants with 500, 1000 or 2000 workers to identify methods for self-organising sensors, robots, computers, and autonomous cars.

They put three or four nests of ants in empty, one-metre-wide circular arenas to observe how they went about connecting the nests.

As with railway networks, directly connecting each nest to every other nest would allow individual ants to travel most efficiently, but required a large amount of trail to be established.

Instead, the ants used central hubs in their networks – an arguably complex design for creatures that University of Sydney biologist Tanya Latty described as having “tiny brains and simple behaviours”.

Ants model a Steiner minimum tree. Credit: Tanya Latty et al
Ants model a Steiner minimum tree. Credit: Tanya Latty et al

“We found that ants almost always made networks that minimised the total amount of trail, consistent with optimisation at a colony level, rather than at an individual level,” Latty told iTnews.

“In many cases, they did a remarkable job of making networks that looked almost exactly like the mathematical shortest path, called a ‘Steiner tree’.”

Argentine ants form trails by tapping the ground with their abdomens to leave behind trails of pheromones that attract other ants.

Because pheromones evaporate over time, trails have a “maintenance cost” of worker ants that continuously march along the trail to lay down pheromones.

Kai Ramsch and Martin Middendorf of the University of Leipzig’s Parallel Computing and Complex Systems Group hoped to apply the ants’ networking methods to organic computing systems.

“Clearly, in order to work together the components of an organic computing system need to be connected,” said Ramsch and Middendorf, who collaborated with Latty for the study.

“Hence, a central question is: How can many components be connected by a network that is formed by the components themselves in a self-organized way?”

In a separate study of Argentine ants last year, University of Sydney biologist Chris Reid speculated that ants and their pheromones could be modelled by data packets that left behind a line of code that expired after a set period of time.

The German computer scientists noted that the digital “evaporation rate” of artificial pheromones would be varied according to speed, distance, number of information packets and network structure of a computer network.

“It is necessary to change the evaporation rate for the artificial pheromones so that they fit to application,” they told iTnews in an e-mail exchange. “This can be simulated with our models.”

A network in four hours

The team found that ant colonies completed the majority of network formation within their first two hours in the arena.

Each experiment lasted a total of six hours, although very few topological changes were observed after four hours.

Latty said she initially suspected that the ants were building low-maintenance networks because they had too few resources to directly connect each nest.

That theory was deemed unlikely, when the researchers found larger supercolonies dedicated their additional resources to building paths that essentially improved the robustness of the network.

A Steiner minimum tree with one extra edge. Credit: Tanya Latty et al.
Steiner minimum tree with an extra edge. Credit: Tanya Latty et al.

The researchers hoped that their study of ant colonies would also yield “self-healing” organic computing networks, since nodes were controlled individually and not by a central control unit.

Copyright © iTnews.com.au . All rights reserved.


Ants build cheapest networks
 
 
 
Top Stories
Frugality as a service: the Amazon story
Behind the scenes, Amazon Web Services is one lean machine.
 
Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors
[Blog post] Lessons from Woolworths’ mammoth migration.
 
Qld govt to move up to 149k staff onto Office 365
Australia's largest deployment, outside of the universities.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...

Latest VideosSee all videos »

The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
Scott Noteboom, CEO of LitBit speaking at The Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. http://bit.ly/1qpxVfV Scott Noteboom is a data centre engineer who led builds for Apple and Yahoo in the earliest days of the cloud, and who now eyes Asia as the next big opportunity. Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/372482,how-do-we-serve-three-billion-new-internet-users.aspx#ixzz2yNLmMG5C
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
To COTS or not to COTS? iTnews asks Karl Maftoum, CIO of the ACMA, at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
AEMO chief information officer Susan Sly calls for more collaboration among Australia's technology leaders at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Credit Union Australia's David Gee awarded Finance CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards.
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Damon Rees named Retail CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Woolworths.
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Acting Foxtel CIO David Marks accepts an iTnews Benchmark Award on behalf of Robyn Elliott.
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Sanjay Mehta named Industrial CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at ConocoPhillips.
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Greg Wells named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at NSW Health.
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
William Confalonieri named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Deakin University.
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
David Johnson named Government CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at the Queensland Police Service.
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott discuss the Coalition's broadband policy with the press.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
The Australian Federal Police have arrested a Sydney-based IT security professional for hacking a government website.
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO Chrissy Burns talks data.
New UTS Building: the IT within
New UTS Building: the IT within
The IT behind tomorrow's universities.
iTnews' NBN Panel
iTnews' NBN Panel
Is your enterprise NBN-ready?
Introducing iTnews Labs
Introducing iTnews Labs
See a timelapse of the iTnews labs being unboxed, set up and switched on! iTnews will produce independent testing of the latest enterprise software to hit the market after installing a purpose-built test lab in Sydney. Watch the installation of two DL380p servers, two HP StoreVirtual 4330 storage arrays and two HP ProCurve 2920 switches.
The True Cost of BYOD
The True Cost of BYOD
iTnews' Brett Winterford gives attendees of the first 'Touch Tomorrow' event in Brisbane a brief look at his research into enterprise mobility. What are the use cases and how can they be quantified? What price should you expect to pay for securing mobile access to corporate applications? What's coming around the corner?
Ghost clouds
Ghost clouds
ACMA chair Chris Chapman says there is uncertainty over whether certain classes of cloud service providers are caught by regulations.
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Privacy experts David Vaile (UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre) and Craig Scroggie (CEO, NextDC) claim they were not surprised by the Snowden leaks about the NSA's PRISM program.
Latest Comments
Polls
Which bank is most likely to suffer an RBS-style meltdown?





   |   View results
ANZ
  21%
 
Bankwest
  9%
 
CommBank
  11%
 
National Australia Bank
  17%
 
Suncorp
  24%
 
Westpac
  19%
TOTAL VOTES: 1463

Vote