Mathias Brandewinder on .NET, F#, VSTO and Excel development, and quantitative analysis / machine learning.
by Mathias 22. May 2011 14:26

In our previous installments, we laid the groundwork of our Bee Colony Algorithm implementation. Today, it’s time to put the bees to work, searching for an acceptable solution to the Traveling Salesman problem.

We will approach the search as a Sequence: starting from an initial hive and solution, we will unfold it, updating the state of the hive and the current best solution at each step. Let’s start with the hive initialization. Starting from an initial route, we need to create a pre-defined number of each Bee type, and provide them with an initial destination:

let Initialize nScouts nActives nInactives cities (rng : Random) =
      for i in 1 .. nScouts do 
         let solution = Evaluate(Shuffle rng cities)
         yield Scout(solution)
      for i in 1 .. nActives do
         let solution = Evaluate(Shuffle rng cities)
         yield Active(solution, 0)
      for i in 1 .. nActives do
         let solution = Evaluate(Shuffle rng cities)
         yield Inactive(solution)

There is probably a more elegant way to do this, but this is good enough: we use a simple List comprehension to generate a list on the fly, yielding the appropriate number of each type of bees, and assigning them a shuffled version of the starting route.


by Mathias 15. May 2011 14:57

In the last post, we ended up defining Bees of 3 types – Scout, Active and Inactive – and a Search function which described how bees search among the space of possible solutions for new “food sources”. The second part of the algorithm deals with how bees returning to the hive share that information with their colleagues, and are promoted from inactive to actively searching.

Real bees share information with each other using what is known as the Waggle Dance, a pretty amazing process by which bees convey to other bees the direction to food sources. The algorithm is much less poetic: bees who return to the Hive with a new Solution will share that information with all bees that are already inactive, or will just become inactive because they have exhausted their current food source. Inactive bees, when presented with a new solution, may – with a certain probability - adopt it as their new target if it is better than their current target.

We'll represent this with a Waggle function, which will represent how a Bee will update its target Solution when presented with a list of potential new solutions.

First, we need to filter the bees who pay attention to the dance; we’ll use a simple Active Pattern:

let tripsLimit = 100

let (|RequiresUpdate|) bee =
   match bee with 
   | Scout(solution) -> false
   | Inactive(solution) -> true
   | Active(solution, trips) -> trips > tripsLimit

While a Scout never listens to the Waggle Dance, an Inactive bee always listens to incoming bees, and Active bees who have made multiple trips to the same destination without finding any improved solution will become Inactive, and listen to other bees.

We can now apply that pattern to decide what to do with a bee:

let Waggle (solutions : List<Solution>) (bee : Bee) (rng : Random) =
   match bee with 
   | RequiresUpdate true -> 
      let currentSolution = Solution bee
      let newSolution = List.fold (fun acc element -> 
         if element.Cost < acc.Cost && rng.NextDouble() < probaConvince 
         then element else acc) currentSolution solutions
   | _ -> bee

For bees that require an update, we retrieve their current solution (using a simple function Solution I’ll leave out for the moment), and fold the list of new potential solutions: starting from the bees’ current solution, we examine whether each candidate is an improvement, and pass the new solution to the accumulator if it is selected.


by Mathias 8. May 2011 19:43

This is our third episode in attempting to convert a C# bee colony algorithm into an F# equivalent. In our previous posts, we created functions to randomly shuffle lists of cities, and to measure the length of the corresponding path. Today, it’s time to get the bees to work, bringing us new solutions to the hive.

The algorithm distinguishes 3 types of bees: Scout, Active and Inactive. Each bee type has a different role in the algorithms: Scouts keep searching for new solutions, Active bees explore around known solutions for improvements until their potential is exhausted, and Inactive bees wait for new information, and replace Active bees when they turn Inactive.

Let’s start there, and define a Bee discriminated union:

type Bee = Scout | Active | Inactive

In the original C# implementation I am starting from, the algorithm works by iteration: each bee of the hive is processed and its state in the Hive updated (see “The Solve Method” in the article), with 3 steps: the bee

  • finds a new solution and evaluates its quality,
  • shares that information with the inactive bees of the Hive by performing a Waggle Dance,
  • becomes re-allocated as Active or Inactive for the next iteration.

Rather than follow strictly the existing implementation, where all three steps are happening in one single method for a bee, I decided to re-organize it a bit, and separate each of these operations, in part to make the code easier to follow, and in part with an eye to making it run in parallel later.

In that frame, let’s begin with the first step, where bee searches for a new solution. Every bee has a current solution in memory, and after searching, they will come up with a new target solution if it is an improvement. Let’s first define for convenience what a Solution will be:

type Solution = { Route: List<City>; Cost: float }
let Evaluate (route: List<City>) = { Route = route; Cost = CircuitCost route }

A Solution wraps in a Record the Route – the ordered list of Cities travelled – and its Cost, measured by its length. We also define a convenience function Evaluate, which takes in a Route and returns the corresponding solution, with the original Route and its Cost, computed using the function we wrote in our last post.



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