Dynamically weakened constraints in bounded search for constraint optimisation problems

Reilly, Craig (2022) Dynamically weakened constraints in bounded search for constraint optimisation problems. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Combinatorial optimisation problems, where the goal is to an optimal solution from the set of solutions of a problem involving resources, constraints on how these resources can be used, and a ranking of solutions are of both theoretical and practical interest. Many real world problems (such as routing vehicles or planning timetables) can be modelled as constraint optimisation problems, and solved via a variety of solver technologies which rely on differing algorithms for search and inference. The starting point for the work presented in this thesis is two existing approaches to solving constraint optimisation problems: constraint programming and decision diagram branch and bound search. Constraint programming models problems using variables which have domains of values and valid value assignments to variables are restricted by constraints. Constraint programming is a mature approach to solving optimisation problems, and typically relies on backtracking search algorithms combined with constraint propagators (which infer from incomplete solutions which values can be removed from the domains of variables which are yet to be assigned a value). Decision diagram branch and bound search is a less mature approach which solves problems modelled as dynamic programming models using width restricted decision diagrams to provide bounds during search. The main contribution of this thesis is adapting decision diagram branch and bound to be the search scheme in a general purpose constraint solver. To achieve this we propose a method in which we introduce a new algorithm for each constraint that we wish to include in our solver and these new algorithms weaken individual constraints, so that they respect the problem relaxations introduced while using decision diagram branch and bound as the search algorithm in our solver. Constraints are weakened during search based on the problem relaxations imposed by the search algorithm: before search begins there is no way of telling which relaxations will be introduced. We attempt to provide weakening algorithms which require little to no changes to existing propagation algorithms. We provide weakening algorithms for a number of built-in constraints in the Flatzinc specifi- cation, as well as for global constraints and symmetry reduction constraints. We implement a solver in Go and empirically verify the competitiveness of our approach. We show that our solver can be parallelised using Goroutines and channels and that our approach scales well. Finally, we also provide an implementation of our approach in a solver which is tailored towards solving extremal graph problems. We use the forbidden subgraph problem to show that our approach of using decision diagram branch and bound as a search scheme in a constraint solver can be paired with canonical search. Canonical search is a technique for graph search which ensures that no two isomorphic graphs are returned during search. We pair our solver with the Nauty graph isomorphism algorithm to achieve this, and explore the relationship between branch and bound and canonical search.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Funder's Name: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Supervisor's Name: Miller, Prof. Alice and Prosser, Dr. Patrick
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83118
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2022 08:31
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2022 16:07
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83118
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83118

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