Ant Colony Optimization Algorithms with Multiple Simulated Colonies Offer Potential Advantages for Solving the Traveling Salesman Problem and, by Extension, Other Optimization Problems

(1) Scripps Ranch High School, San Diego, California

The traveling salesman problem (TSP) is a classic problem in optimization, frequently used for measuring the performance of optimization algorithms. The goal in solving the TSP is to determine the lowest-cost circuit through a set of cities on a graph. Ant colony optimization (ACO) algorithms, inspired by nature, use simulated ants that modify their environment through laying and removing pheromone, represented by weights on the edges of the graph connecting each city. In this study, a novel algorithm is developed, Multi-Colony System (MCS), which uses multiple colonies of simulated ants in combination to produce superior solutions to the TSP. In comparison with Ant Colony System (ACS), a standard well-performing ACO algorithm, MCS has displayed improved performance, producing tours up to 19.4% shorter than those of ACS in the same amount of time. The performance of MCS in this study presents potential advantages in applications beyond the TSP, including the ability of multiple colonies to both develop a greater number of solutions simultaneously and to more efficiently avoid local maxima in the search space.

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