Network Like Ants
Network Like Ants: Ants, the micro icons of industriousness and organization, apparently can teach us something about how computer networks work and how they can be improved as well. A team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has been studying ants to create a model of analysis of social networks, collective decision making among robot swarms, and communication in decentralized, ad hoc wireless networks. The MIT study confirms a long-held assumption in the scientific community, that ants estimate their population density based on the frequency at which they bump into other ants while randomly exploring their environs.
The researchers make a parallel between an ant’s environment and a grid. An explorer ant starts at some cell of the grid and likely moves to one of the adjacent cells. It is also likely that it then moves to another cell adjacent to the one it departed from, and so on. In technical, statistical language this is called “random walk.” The explorer ant counts the number of other ants in all the cells it visits. To model the ants’ environment, the researchers used a graph data structure consisting of nodes (circles), and edges, which are the line segments connecting nodes. In the grid, each cell is a node, and it shares edges only with those cells immediately adjacent to it.