3d Assignment Problem

The assignment problem is one of the fundamental combinatorial optimization problems in the branch of optimization or operations research in mathematics. It consists of finding a maximum weight matching (or minimum weight perfect matching) in a weightedbipartite graph.

In its most general form, the problem is as follows:

The problem instance has a number of agents and a number of tasks. Any agent can be assigned to perform any task, incurring some cost that may vary depending on the agent-task assignment. It is required to perform all tasks by assigning exactly one agent to each task and exactly one task to each agent in such a way that the total cost of the assignment is minimized.

If the numbers of agents and tasks are equal and the total cost of the assignment for all tasks is equal to the sum of the costs for each agent (or the sum of the costs for each task, which is the same thing in this case), then the problem is called the linear assignment problem. Commonly, when speaking of the assignment problem without any additional qualification, then the linear assignment problem is meant.

Algorithms and generalizations[edit]

The Hungarian algorithm is one of many algorithms that have been devised that solve the linear assignment problem within time bounded by a polynomial expression of the number of agents. Other algorithms include adaptations of the primal simplex algorithm, and the auction algorithm.

The assignment problem is a special case of the transportation problem, which is a special case of the minimum cost flow problem, which in turn is a special case of a linear program. While it is possible to solve any of these problems using the simplex algorithm, each specialization has more efficient algorithms designed to take advantage of its special structure.

When a number of agents and tasks is very large, a parallel algorithm with randomization can be applied. The problem of finding minimum weight maximum matching can be converted to finding a minimum weight perfect matching. A bipartite graph can be extended to a complete bipartite graph by adding artificial edges with large weights. These weights should exceed the weights of all existing matchings to prevent appearance of artificial edges in the possible solution. As shown by Mulmuley, Vazirani & Vazirani (1987), the problem of minimum weight perfect matching is converted to finding minors in the adjacency matrix of a graph. Using the isolation lemma, a minimum weight perfect matching in a graph can be found with probability at least ½. For a graph with n vertices, it requires time.

Example[edit]

Suppose that a taxi firm has three taxis (the agents) available, and three customers (the tasks) wishing to be picked up as soon as possible. The firm prides itself on speedy pickups, so for each taxi the "cost" of picking up a particular customer will depend on the time taken for the taxi to reach the pickup point. The solution to the assignment problem will be whichever combination of taxis and customers results in the least total cost.

However, the assignment problem can be made rather more flexible than it first appears. In the above example, suppose that there are four taxis available, but still only three customers. Then a fourth dummy task can be invented, perhaps called "sitting still doing nothing", with a cost of 0 for the taxi assigned to it. The assignment problem can then be solved in the usual way and still give the best solution to the problem.

Similar adjustments can be done in order to allow more tasks than agents, tasks to which multiple agents must be assigned (for instance, a group of more customers than will fit in one taxi), or maximizing profit rather than minimizing cost.

Formal mathematical definition[edit]

The formal definition of the assignment problem (or linear assignment problem) is

Given two sets, A and T, of equal size, together with a weight functionC : A × TR. Find a bijectionf : AT such that the cost function:

is minimized.

Usually the weight function is viewed as a square real-valued matrixC, so that the cost function is written down as:

The problem is "linear" because the cost function to be optimized as well as all the constraints contain only linear terms.

The problem can be expressed as a standard linear program with the objective function

subject to the constraints

The variable represents the assignment of agent to task , taking value 1 if the assignment is done and 0 otherwise. This formulation allows also fractional variable values, but there is always an optimal solution where the variables take integer values. This is because the constraint matrix is totally unimodular. The first constraint requires that every agent is assigned to exactly one task, and the second constraint requires that every task is assigned exactly one agent.

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Further reading[edit]

The quadratic assignment problem (QAP) is one of the fundamental combinatorial optimization problems in the branch of optimization or operations research in mathematics, from the category of the facilities location problems.

The problem models the following real-life problem:

There are a set of n facilities and a set of n locations. For each pair of locations, a distance is specified and for each pair of facilities a weight or flow is specified (e.g., the amount of supplies transported between the two facilities). The problem is to assign all facilities to different locations with the goal of minimizing the sum of the distances multiplied by the corresponding flows.

Intuitively, the cost function encourages factories with high flows between each other to be placed close together.

The problem statement resembles that of the assignment problem, except that the cost function is expressed in terms of quadratic inequalities, hence the name.

Formal mathematical definition[edit]

The formal definition of the quadratic assignment problem is as follows:

Given two sets, P ("facilities") and L ("locations"), of equal size, together with a weight functionw : P × PR and a distance function d : L × LR. Find the bijectionf : PL ("assignment") such that the cost function:
is minimized.

Usually weight and distance functions are viewed as square real-valued matrices, so that the cost function is written down as:

In matrix notation:

where are the permutation matrices, "W" is the weight matrix and "D" is the distance matrix.

Computational complexity[edit]

The problem is NP-hard, so there is no known algorithm for solving this problem in polynomial time, and even small instances may require long computation time. It was also proven that the problem does not have an approximation algorithm running in polynomial time for any (constant) factor, unless P = NP.[1] The travelling salesman problem may be seen as a special case of QAP if one assumes that the flows connect all facilities only along a single ring, all flows have the same non-zero (constant) value. Many other problems of standard combinatorial optimization problems may be written in this form.

Applications[edit]

In addition to the original plant location formulation, QAP is a mathematical model for the problem of placement of interconnected electronic components onto a printed circuit board or on a microchip, which is part of the place and route stage of computer aided design in the electronics industry.

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