Ants know best when it comes to routing electronic circuits

1 min read

Michael Hsiao, Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech in the US, has developed mathematical formulae that simulate the methods used by the ants to find the best route to food sources and plans to use these algorithms to improve the accuracy of electronics design.

According to Prof Hsiao, as electronics designers add more features and capabilities into ever smaller electronics hardware, they are increasing the difficulty of verifying that their designs perform as planned. "A poorly verified design compromises both the system's reliability and its security," he claimed. Prof Hsiao's solution is based on a framework called the Ant Colony Optimization method. This employs an automatic stimulus generator on the design to create a database of possible vectors. These are then populated by a swarm of intelligent agents, which deposit the electronic equivalent of a pheromone along their paths to attract other agents. The pheromone evaporates over time, resulting in a reinforcement of the most efficient pathways, allowing for the aggregation of knowledge gained from a large number of agents. "The framework emphasises the effective modelling and learning from collective effort by extracting the intelligence acquired during the search over multiple abstract models," said Prof Hsiao. The simulation loops through multiple runs and branches with the highest fitness values are removed so the system can focus on testing the 'hard corners' in a design. Prof Hsaio says this approach is 'a vast improvement over other methods, covering a far higher percentage of possible states in far less time'.