# Heuristics for Dynamically Adapting Constraint Propagation in Constraint Programming

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1 Heuristics for Dynamically Adapting Constraint Propagation in Constraint Programming Kostas Stergiou AI Lab University of the Aegean Greece CPAIOR 09 Workshop on Bound reduction techniques for CP and MINLP

2 Talk Outline CP: some preliminaries Constraint activity during search Heuristics for dynamically adapting constraint propagation Experimental results Conclusions

3 Constraint Programming A Constraint Satisfaction Problem (CSP) is a tuple (X, D, C), where: X is a set of n variables {x1, x2,, xn} D is a set of domains {D(x1), D(x2),..., D(xn)} finite integer domains in our case C is a set of constraints {c1, c2,, cm} between variables of X Each constraint c on variables xi,,xj restricts the possible combinations of values that the variables can take In a constraint optimization problem we also have an objective function

4 Constraint Programming Typical constraint solvers are based on backtracking depth-first search coupled with constraint propagation After a branching decision is made (e.g. variable assignment) a list Q of constraints to be revised is formed while Q is not empty remove constraint c i from Q for each variable x j in c i Revise(x j, c i ) if domain of x j is empty then return FAIL if domain of x j is modified then put in Q each c m that involves x j return 1 The Revise function implements a constraint propagation algorithm for domain reduction E.g. an arc consistency algorithm or a propagator for a global constraint

5 Constraint Programming In many solvers constraints are propagated using the same propagation method throughout search E.g. a MAC solver applies arc consistency on all constraints throughout search More sophisticated solvers may use an array of propagators for certain constraints Usually such propagators apply GAC or lesser consistencies (e.g. bounds consistency) For example, the constraint solver may be equipped with a gac and a bounds consistency algorithm for the common all-different constraint But the choice of propagator is typically made statically prior to search In this presentation we are interested in problems were all constraints are binary

6 Constraint Activity Definitions: A constraint is deletion-active if it causes at least one domain reduction A constraint is DWO-active if it causes at least one domain wipeout while Q is not empty remove constraint c i from Q for each variable x j in c i Revise(x j, c i ) if domain of x j is empty then return FAIL if domain of x j is modified then put in Q each c m that involves x j return 1 It has been observed that not all constraints are deletion or/and DWO active during the run of a search algorithm Particularly in structured problems only a few constraints are active in some cases Many constraints are revised over and over with no fruitful result (redundant revisions) Question: How is the activity of a constraint distributed during its revisions?

7 Constraint Activity - DWOs Answer: In structured problems DWOs are highly clustered constraint weight DWO caused driver constraint weight RLFAP Not so in random problems where they are uniformly distributed constraint weight weight updates constraint revisions constraint revision weight updates constraint revisions constraint weight 0 weight updates constraint revisions weight updates constraint revisions quasigroup completion

8 Constraint Activity Domain reductions 400 Answer: In 350 structured problems fruitful revisions (i.e. fruitful 200 ones causing domain revision 150 reductions) are also highly clustered 0 Results given so far we obtained using MAC i.e. all constraints are revised using arc consistency and the variable ordering heuristic dom/wdeg RLFAP value deletions constraint revisions constraint revision driver value deletions constraint revisions

9 Constraint Activity - Results We run the Expectation Maximization (EM) clustering algorithm on some problems We measure the clustering of propagation events (deletions and DWOs) for 20 sample constraints in each problem DWO-active constraints / total constraints The SD in a cluster gives the average distance from the cluster's centroid. The median SD is quite low in structured problems indicating that DWO-revisions are closely grouped together The mean is higher because of outliers Notice the difference in the random one!

10 Constraint Activity - Structure The clustering of domain reductions seems to depend on the structure of problems It does not occur in unstructured random problems This can be explained by the presence of hard sub-problems in structured CSPs Once search reaches such a subproblem it may cause repeated domain reductions as the search algorithm assigns variables involved in the subproblem and propagates these assignments constraint weight weight updates constraint revisions

11 Constraint Activity Question: What is the dependence of the clustering phenomenon on the various features of a constraint solver? Propagation method Variable ordering heuristic Restarts Implementation of propagation list Answer: It seems to be independent! The phenomenon persists when experimenting with different combinations of the above features

12 Constraint Activity We tried using maxrpc instead of AC on all constraints maxrpc is stronger (it achieves more domain reductions) Again there appeared a clear clustering of domain reductions fruitful revision Similar when changing the variable ordering heuristic dom, Brelaz, dom/deg, dom/fdeg and when adding restarts and when changing the implementation of the propagation list constraint-oriented vs. variable-oriented LIFO vs. FIFO 10 value deletions constraint revisions constraint revision

13 From clustering of constraint activity to dynamically adapting propagation We propose heuristics that exploit the clustering of propagation events to dynamically adapt the propagation method for individual constraints We only consider switching between a weak (W) - and cheap - and a strong (S) and expensive method Case study with AC and maxrpc The heuristics monitor propagation events and switch between W and S on individual constraints when certain conditions are met they are lightweight and very easy to implement! Once procedure revice(c) is called the given heuristic determines whether c will be revised with W or S Heuristics can be fully automated (no user involvement) or semi-automated (user specifies a bound)

14 Heuristics H1 H1(l): semi automated - DWO monitoring H1 monitors and counts the revisions and DWOs of the constraints A constraint c is made S if the number of calls to Revise(c) since the last time it caused a DWO is less or equal to a (user defined) threshold l. Otherwise, it is made W. constraint weight DWO caused 50 l =100 weight updates constraint revisions constraint revision S S W

15 Heuristics H2 H2: fully or semi automated - deletion monitoring H2 monitors revisions and value deletions. A constraint c is made S as long as the last call to Revise(c) deleted at least one value. Otherwise, it is made W. H2 can be semi automated in a similar way to H1 by allowing for a numberl of redundant revisions after the last fruitful revision. If l is set to 0 we get the fully automated H2 constraint weight deletion caused 50 l =0 S W weight updates constraint revisions constraint revision S

16 Heuristics H3 H3: fully or semi automated - hybrid H3 monitors revisions, value deletions, and DWOs. A constraint c is made S as long as revising it with S deletes at least one value. Otherwise, it is made W. Once the constraint causes a DWO, the monitoring of S s effects starts again. If this is not done then after the first DWO the constraint will be always propagated using W. H3 can be semi automated in a similar way to H1 and H2 constraint weight deletion caused 50 l =0 DWO weight updates constraint revisions constraint revision S W S W

17 Heuristics H4 H4: fully or semi automated - deletion monitoring H4 monitors value deletions. For any constraint c, H4 applies W until a value is deleted. In this case c is made S. I.e. S is applied on the remaining available values in D(x). H4 can be semi automated by insisting that S is applied only if a proportion p of x s values have been deleted byw during the current revision of c. With high values of p S will be applied only when it is likely that it will cause a DWO.

18 Disjunctive and Conjunctive Heuristic Combinations Importantly, the heuristics defined above can be combined either disjunctively or conjunctively in various ways For example, heuristic H 124 applies S on a constraint whenever the condition specified by either H1, H2, or H4 holds. Heuristic H 24 applies S when both the conditions of H2 and H4 hold. We can choose a disjunctive or conjunctive combination depending on whether we want S applied to a greater or lesser extent respectively.

19 Experiments Case study with Arc Consistency (W) and max Restricted Path Consistency (S) maxrpc is strictly stronger than AC We compare algorithms that apply AC and maxrpc to algorithms that apply single or combined heuristics to determine how constraints are propagated Experiments on various structured and random problems radio links frequency assignment (RLFAP), langford, black hole, driver, hanoi, quasigroup completion, quasigroup with holes, graph coloring, composed random, forced random, geometric random

20 Experimental Results From structured RLFAPs The adaptive heuristics reduce node visits and run times in most cases When maxrpc is better than AC When maxrpc has no significant impact on node visits, the heuristics are better or competitive with AC When maxrpc reduces nodes considerably but is slower than AC

21 Experimental Results From various structured problems In some of these problems maxrpc is much more efficient than AC The heuristics, except H4, can offer further improvement Overall, the disjunctive combinations are more robust than single heuristics

22 Experimental Results And some unstructured random problems Here AC is clearly the winner The only competitive heuristic is H4 which does not target clusters of propagation activity

23 Conclusions & Future Work Propagation events (domain reductions and wipeouts) caused by individual constraints typically occur in clusters of close revisions This phenomenon appears to be independent of important parameters of CP solvers constraint propagation method, variable ordering heuristics, restarts, implementation of propagation list but depends heavily on the presence of some structure in the problem Experimental results on structured problems are promising In the future: non-binary consistencies and global constraints We proposed heuristics for dynamically adapting the propagation of individual constraints The heuristics monitor propagation events and change the propagation method when certain conditions are met THANK YOU!

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