Applications of Agent-based Models

Often I get asked the question along the lines of: “how are agent-based models are being used outside academia, especially in government and private industry?” So I thought it was about time I briefly write something about this.

Let me start with a question I ask my students when I first introduce agent-based modeling: “Have you ever seen an agent-based model before?” Often the answer is NO, but then I show them the following clip from MASSIVE (Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment) where agent-based models are used in a variety of movies and TV shows. But apart from TV shows and movies where else have agent-based models been used?
There are two specific application domains where agent-based modeling has taken off. The first being pedestrian simulation for example, LegionSteps and EXODUS simulation platforms. The second is the area of traffic modeling for example, there are several microsimulation/agent-based model platforms such as PTV Visum, TransModeler and Paramics. Based on these companies websites they have clients in industry, government and academia.
If we move away from the areas discussed above, there is a lot of writing about the potential of agent-based modeling. For example, the Bank of England had a article entitled “Agent-based models: understanding the economy from the bottom up” which to quote from the summary:

“considers the strengths of agent-based modelling, which explains the behaviour of a system by simulating the behaviour of each individual ‘agent’ in it, and the ways that it can be used to help central banks understand the economy.”

Similar articles can be seen in the New York Times and the Guardian to name but a few. But where else have agent-based models been used? A sample (and definitely not an exhaustive list) of applications and references are provided below for interested readers:
  • Southwest Airlines used an agent-based model to improve how it handled cargo (Seibel and Thomas, 2000).
  • Eli Lilly used an agent-based model for drug development (Bonabeau, 2003a).
  • Pacific Gas and Electric: Used an agent based model to see how energy flows through the power grid (Bonabeau, 2003a).
  • Procter and Gamble used an agent-based model to understand its consumer markets (North et al., 2010) while Hewlett-Packard used an agent-based model to understand how hiring strategies effect corporate culture (Bonabeau, 2003b).
  • Macy’s have used agent-based models for store design (Bonabeau, 2003b).
  • NASDAQ used and agent based model to explore changes to Stock Market’s decimalization (Bonabeau, 2003b; Darley and Outkin, 2007).
  • Using a agent-based model to explore capacity and demand in theme parks (Bonabeau, 2000).
  • Traffic and pedestrian modeling (Helbing and Balietti, 2011).
  • Disease dynamics (e.g. Eubank et al., 2004).
  • Agent-based modeling has also been used for wild fire training, incident command and community outreach (Guerin and Carrera, 2010). For example SimTable was used in the  2016 Sand Fire in California. 
  • InSTREAM: Explores how river salmon populations react to changes (Railsback and Harvey, 2002).

While not a comprehensive list, it is hoped that these examples and links will be useful if someone asks the question I started this post with. If anyone else knows of any other real world applications of agent-based modeling please let me know (preferably with a link to a paper or website).
 
References

  • Bonabeau, E. (2000), ‘Business Applications of Social Agent-Based Simulation’, Advances in Complex Systems, 3(1-4): 451-461.
  • Bonabeau, E. (2003a), ‘Don’t Trust Your Gut’, Harvard Business Review, 81(5): 116-123.
  • Bonabeau, E. (2003b), ‘Predicting the Unpredictable’, Harvard Business Review, 80(3): 109-116.
  • Darley, V. and Outkin, A.V. (2007), NASDAQ Market Simulation: Insights on a Major Market from the Science of Complex Adaptive Systems, World Scientific Publishing, River Edge, NJ.
  • Eubank, S., Guclu, H., Kumar, A.V.S., Marathe, M.V., Srinivasan, A., Toroczkai, Z. and Wang, N. (2004), ‘Modelling Disease Outbreaks in Realistic Urban Social Networks’, Nature, 429: 180-184.
  • Guerin, S. and Carrera, F. (2010), ‘Sand on Fire: An Interactive Tangible 3D Platform for the Modeling and Management of Wildfires.’ WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 137: 57-68.
  • Helbing, D. and Balietti, S. (2011), How to do Agent-based Simulations in the Future: From Modeling Social Mechanisms to Emergent Phenomena and Interactive Systems Design, Santa Fe Institute, Working Paper 11-06-024, Santa Fe, NM.
  • North, M.J., Macal, C.M., Aubin, J.S., Thimmapuram, P., Bragen, M., Hahn, J., J., K., Brigham, N., Lacy, M.E. and Hampton, D. (2010), ‘Multiscale Agent-based Consumer Market Modeling’, Complexity, 15(5): 37-47.
  • Railsback, S.F. and Harvey, B.C. (2002), ‘Analysis of Habitat Selection Rules using an Individual-based Model’, Ecology, 83(7): 1817-1830.
  • Seibel, F. and Thomas, C. (2000), ‘Manifest Destiny: Adaptive Cargo Routing at Southwest Airlines’, Perspectives on Business Innovation, 4: 27-33.

    Continue reading »

    Applications of Agent-based Models

    Often I get asked the question along the lines of: “how are agent-based models are being used outside academia, especially in government and private industry?” So I thought it was about time I briefly write something about this.

    Let me start with a question I ask my students when I first introduce agent-based modeling: “Have you ever seen an agent-based model before?” Often the answer is NO, but then I show them the following clip from MASSIVE (Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment) where agent-based models are used in a variety of movies and TV shows. But apart from TV shows and movies where else have agent-based models been used?
    There are two specific application domains where agent-based modeling has taken off. The first being pedestrian simulation for example, LegionSteps and EXODUS simulation platforms. The second is the area of traffic modeling for example, there are several microsimulation/agent-based model platforms such as PTV Visum, TransModeler and Paramics. Based on these companies websites they have clients in industry, government and academia.
    If we move away from the areas discussed above, there is a lot of writing about the potential of agent-based modeling. For example, the Bank of England had a article entitled “Agent-based models: understanding the economy from the bottom up” which to quote from the summary:

    “considers the strengths of agent-based modelling, which explains the behaviour of a system by simulating the behaviour of each individual ‘agent’ in it, and the ways that it can be used to help central banks understand the economy.”

    Similar articles can be seen in the New York Times and the Guardian to name but a few. But where else have agent-based models been used? A sample (and definitely not an exhaustive list) of applications and references are provided below for interested readers:
    • Southwest Airlines used an agent-based model to improve how it handled cargo (Seibel and Thomas, 2000).
    • Eli Lilly used an agent-based model for drug development (Bonabeau, 2003a).
    • Pacific Gas and Electric: Used an agent based model to see how energy flows through the power grid (Bonabeau, 2003a).
    • Procter and Gamble used an agent-based model to understand its consumer markets (North et al., 2010) while Hewlett-Packard used an agent-based model to understand how hiring strategies effect corporate culture (Bonabeau, 2003b).
    • Macy’s have used agent-based models for store design (Bonabeau, 2003b).
    • NASDAQ used and agent based model to explore changes to Stock Market’s decimalization (Bonabeau, 2003b; Darley and Outkin, 2007).
    • Using a agent-based model to explore capacity and demand in theme parks (Bonabeau, 2000).
    • Traffic and pedestrian modeling (Helbing and Balietti, 2011).
    • Disease dynamics (e.g. Eubank et al., 2004).
    • Agent-based modeling has also been used for wild fire training, incident command and community outreach (Guerin and Carrera, 2010). For example SimTable was used in the  2016 Sand Fire in California. 
    • InSTREAM: Explores how river salmon populations react to changes (Railsback and Harvey, 2002).

    While not a comprehensive list, it is hoped that these examples and links will be useful if someone asks the question I started this post with. If anyone else knows of any other real world applications of agent-based modeling please let me know (preferably with a link to a paper or website).
     
    References

    • Bonabeau, E. (2000), ‘Business Applications of Social Agent-Based Simulation’, Advances in Complex Systems, 3(1-4): 451-461.
    • Bonabeau, E. (2003a), ‘Don’t Trust Your Gut’, Harvard Business Review, 81(5): 116-123.
    • Bonabeau, E. (2003b), ‘Predicting the Unpredictable’, Harvard Business Review, 80(3): 109-116.
    • Darley, V. and Outkin, A.V. (2007), NASDAQ Market Simulation: Insights on a Major Market from the Science of Complex Adaptive Systems, World Scientific Publishing, River Edge, NJ.
    • Eubank, S., Guclu, H., Kumar, A.V.S., Marathe, M.V., Srinivasan, A., Toroczkai, Z. and Wang, N. (2004), ‘Modelling Disease Outbreaks in Realistic Urban Social Networks’, Nature, 429: 180-184.
    • Guerin, S. and Carrera, F. (2010), ‘Sand on Fire: An Interactive Tangible 3D Platform for the Modeling and Management of Wildfires.’ WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 137: 57-68.
    • Helbing, D. and Balietti, S. (2011), How to do Agent-based Simulations in the Future: From Modeling Social Mechanisms to Emergent Phenomena and Interactive Systems Design, Santa Fe Institute, Working Paper 11-06-024, Santa Fe, NM.
    • North, M.J., Macal, C.M., Aubin, J.S., Thimmapuram, P., Bragen, M., Hahn, J., J., K., Brigham, N., Lacy, M.E. and Hampton, D. (2010), ‘Multiscale Agent-based Consumer Market Modeling’, Complexity, 15(5): 37-47.
    • Railsback, S.F. and Harvey, B.C. (2002), ‘Analysis of Habitat Selection Rules using an Individual-based Model’, Ecology, 83(7): 1817-1830.
    • Seibel, F. and Thomas, C. (2000), ‘Manifest Destiny: Adaptive Cargo Routing at Southwest Airlines’, Perspectives on Business Innovation, 4: 27-33.

      Continue reading »

      The study of slums as social and physical constructs: challenges and emerging research opportunities

      Conceptual model for integrating social
      and physical constructs to monitor,
      analyze and model slums.

      Continuing our research on slums, we have just had a paper published in the journal Regional Studies, Regional Science entitled “The Study of Slums as Social and Physical Constructs: Challenges and Emerging Research Opportunities“. In this open access publication we review past lines of research with respect to studying slums which often focus on one of three constructs: (1) exploring the socio-economic and policy issues; (2) exploring the physical characteristics; and, lastly, (3) those modelling slums. We argue that while such lines of inquiry have proved invaluable with respect to studying slums, there is a need for  a  more  holistic  approach  for  studying  slums  to truly understand  them at the local, national and regional scales. Below you can read the abstract of our paper:

      “Over 1 billion people currently live in slums, with the number of slum dwellers only expected to grow in the coming decades. The vast majority of slums are located in and around urban centres in the less economically developed countries, which are also experiencing greater rates of urbanization compared with more developed countries. This rapid rate of urbanization is cause for significant concern given that many of these countries often lack the ability to provide the infrastructure (e.g., roads and affordable housing) and basic services (e.g., water and sanitation) to provide adequately for the increasing influx of people into cities. While research on slums has been ongoing, such work has mainly focused on one of three constructs: exploring the socio-economic and policy issues; exploring the physical characteristics; and, lastly, those modelling slums. This paper reviews these lines of research and argues that while each is valuable, there is a need for a more holistic approach for studying slums to truly understand them. By synthesizing the social and physical constructs, this paper provides a more holistic synthesis of the problem, which can potentially lead to a deeper understanding and, consequently, better approaches for tackling the challenge of slums at the local, national and regional scales.”

      Keywords: Slums; informal settlements; socio-economic; remote sensing; crowdsourced information; modelling.

      Framework for studying and understanding slums.

      We hope you enjoy this paper and we wound be interested in receiving any feedback.
      Full Reference:

      Mahabir, R., Crooks, A.T., Croitoru, A. and Agouris, P. (2016), “The Study of Slums as Social and Physical Constructs: Challenges and Emerging Research Opportunities”, Regional Studies, Regional Science, 3(1): 737-757. (pdf)

      Continue reading »

      The study of slums as social and physical constructs: challenges and emerging research opportunities

      Conceptual model for integrating social
      and physical constructs to monitor,
      analyze and model slums.

      Continuing our research on slums, we have just had a paper published in the journal Regional Studies, Regional Science entitled “The Study of Slums as Social and Physical Constructs: Challenges and Emerging Research Opportunities“. In this open access publication we review past lines of research with respect to studying slums which often focus on one of three constructs: (1) exploring the socio-economic and policy issues; (2) exploring the physical characteristics; and, lastly, (3) those modelling slums. We argue that while such lines of inquiry have proved invaluable with respect to studying slums, there is a need for  a  more  holistic  approach  for  studying  slums  to truly understand  them at the local, national and regional scales. Below you can read the abstract of our paper:

      “Over 1 billion people currently live in slums, with the number of slum dwellers only expected to grow in the coming decades. The vast majority of slums are located in and around urban centres in the less economically developed countries, which are also experiencing greater rates of urbanization compared with more developed countries. This rapid rate of urbanization is cause for significant concern given that many of these countries often lack the ability to provide the infrastructure (e.g., roads and affordable housing) and basic services (e.g., water and sanitation) to provide adequately for the increasing influx of people into cities. While research on slums has been ongoing, such work has mainly focused on one of three constructs: exploring the socio-economic and policy issues; exploring the physical characteristics; and, lastly, those modelling slums. This paper reviews these lines of research and argues that while each is valuable, there is a need for a more holistic approach for studying slums to truly understand them. By synthesizing the social and physical constructs, this paper provides a more holistic synthesis of the problem, which can potentially lead to a deeper understanding and, consequently, better approaches for tackling the challenge of slums at the local, national and regional scales.”

      Keywords: Slums; informal settlements; socio-economic; remote sensing; crowdsourced information; modelling.

      Framework for studying and understanding slums.

      We hope you enjoy this paper and we wound be interested in receiving any feedback.
      Full Reference:

      Mahabir, R., Crooks, A.T., Croitoru, A. and Agouris, P. (2016), “The Study of Slums as Social and Physical Constructs: Challenges and Emerging Research Opportunities”, Regional Studies, Regional Science, 3(1): 737-757. (pdf)

      Continue reading »

      Call For Papers: Rethinking the ABCs

      Readers of the blog might be interested in a workshop being organized by Daniel Brown, Eun-Kyeong Kim, Liliana Perez, and Raja Sengupta entitled:

      Rethinking the ABCs: Agent-Based Models and Complexity Science in the age of Big Data, CyberGIS, and Sensor networks

      September 27th, 2016 in Montreal, Canada

      To quote from the call:

      “A broad scope of concepts and methodologies from complexity science – including Agent-Based Models, Cellular Automata, network theory, chaos theory, and scaling relations – has contributed to a better understanding of spatial/temporal dynamics of complex geographic patterns and process.

      Recent advances in computational technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing and CyberGIS platforms, and Sensor Networks (i.e. the Internet of Things) provides both new opportunities and raises new challenges for ABM and complexity theory research within GIScience. Challenges include parameterization of complex models with volumes of georeferenced data being generated, scale model applications to realistic simulations over broader geographic extents, explore the challenges in their deployment across large networks to take advantage of increased computational power, and validate their output using real-time data, as well as measure the impact of the simulation on knowledge, information and decision-making both locally and globally via the world wide web.

      The scope of this workshop is to explore novel complexity science approaches to dynamic geographic phenomena and their applications, addressing challenges and enriching research methodologies in geography in a Big Data Era.”

      More information about the workshop can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/bigcomplexitygisci/

      Continue reading »

      Call For Papers: Rethinking the ABCs

      Readers of the blog might be interested in a workshop being organized by Daniel Brown, Eun-Kyeong Kim, Liliana Perez, and Raja Sengupta entitled:

      Rethinking the ABCs: Agent-Based Models and Complexity Science in the age of Big Data, CyberGIS, and Sensor networks

      September 27th, 2016 in Montreal, Canada

      To quote from the call:

      “A broad scope of concepts and methodologies from complexity science – including Agent-Based Models, Cellular Automata, network theory, chaos theory, and scaling relations – has contributed to a better understanding of spatial/temporal dynamics of complex geographic patterns and process.

      Recent advances in computational technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing and CyberGIS platforms, and Sensor Networks (i.e. the Internet of Things) provides both new opportunities and raises new challenges for ABM and complexity theory research within GIScience. Challenges include parameterization of complex models with volumes of georeferenced data being generated, scale model applications to realistic simulations over broader geographic extents, explore the challenges in their deployment across large networks to take advantage of increased computational power, and validate their output using real-time data, as well as measure the impact of the simulation on knowledge, information and decision-making both locally and globally via the world wide web.

      The scope of this workshop is to explore novel complexity science approaches to dynamic geographic phenomena and their applications, addressing challenges and enriching research methodologies in geography in a Big Data Era.”

      More information about the workshop can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/bigcomplexitygisci/

      Continue reading »

      Modeling the outbreak, spread, and containment of tuberculosis

      It seems my interest into disease models is growing. While the development of the cholera model is still underway, over the summer I have had been working with a very talented high school student looking at the outbreak, spread and containment of tuberculosis (TB). Why might you ask? TB is a global problem with 1.8 billion people having a TB Infection, 8.8 million people infected with the TB disease, and around 1.5 million annual deaths. It is the second most common form of death from an infectious disease with the majority of cases in developing countries.

      So we have been developing a model that explores how TB might manifest itself, spread within an urban setting and the potential to contain the disease. We have chosen as our test case the Kibera slum within Nairobi, Kenya. Agents in this model represent the residents of the Kibera slum. They are mobile and goal-orientated, seeking to fulfill one goal before moving on to the next. Goals are determined based on the agent’s characteristics (age, sex, etc.) as well as their needs (water, food, health etc.). The exact location they choose to go to is also affected by the distance. When agents interact with one another, they can be infected with TB. Infection is determined upon the amount of bacilli absorbed by agents and their immune response. The transition from infection to disease for HIV positive patients is also dependent on the patient’s CD4 cell count.  What you see below is a poster we presented at Krasnow Institute Retreat.

      To give a sense of the dynamics of the model, the movie below shows agents moving around the slum and how their health status changes as time progresses.

      Continue reading »
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