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Taming the computational complexity of combinatorial auctions: Optimal and approximate approaches
, 1999
"... In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. ..."
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Cited by 288 (9 self)
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In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. The first method, which is guaranteed to be optimal, reduces running time by structuring the search space so that a modified depthfirst search usually avoids even considering allocations that contain conflicting bids. Caching and pruning are also used to speed searching. Our second method is a heuristic, marketbased approach. It sets up a virtual multiround auction in which a virtual agent represents each original bid bundle and places bids, according to a fixed strategy, for each good in that bundle. We show through experiments on synthetic data that (a) our first method finds optimal allocations quickly and offers good anytime performance, and (b) in many cases our second method, despite lacking guarantees regarding optimality or running time, quickly reaches solutions that are nearly optimal. 1 Combinatorial Auctions Auction theory has received increasing attention from computer scientists in recent years. 1 One reason is the explosion of internetbased auctions. The use of auctions in businesstobusiness trades is also increasing rapidly [Cortese and Stepanek, 1998]. Within AI there is growing interest in using auction mechanisms to solve distributed resource allocation problems. For example, auctions and other market mechanisms are used in network bandwidth allocation, distributed configuration design, factory scheduling, and operating system memory allocation [Clearwater, 1996]. Marketoriented programming has
Bidding and Allocation in Combinatorial Auctions
 IN ACM CONFERENCE ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
, 2000
"... When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability o ..."
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Cited by 275 (11 self)
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When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability of many aspects regarding such an auction. This paper considers two of these aspects: the bidding language and the allocation algorithm. First we consider which kinds of bids on combinations are allowed and how, i.e. in what language, they are specified. The basic tradeoff is the expressibility of the language versus its simplicity. We consider and formalize several bidding languages and compare their strengths. We prove exponential separations between the expressive power of different languages, and show that one language, "ORbids with phantom items", can polynomially simulate the others. We then consider the problem of determining the best allocation  a problem known to be computationally intractable. We suggest an approach based on Linear Programming (LP) and motivate it. We prove that the LP approach finds an optimal allocation if and only if prices can be attached to single items in the auction. We pinpoint several classes of auctions where this is the case, and suggest greedy and branchandbound heuristics based on LP for other cases.
Coalition Structure Generation with Worst Case Guarantees
, 1999
"... Coalition formation is a key topic in multiagent systems. One may prefer a coalition structure that maximizes the sum of the values of the coalitions, but often the number of coalition structures is too large to allow exhaustive search for the optimal one. Furthermore, finding the optimal coalition ..."
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Cited by 270 (9 self)
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Coalition formation is a key topic in multiagent systems. One may prefer a coalition structure that maximizes the sum of the values of the coalitions, but often the number of coalition structures is too large to allow exhaustive search for the optimal one. Furthermore, finding the optimal coalition structure is NPcomplete. But then, can the coalition structure found via a partial search be guaranteed to be within a bound from optimum? We show that none of the previous coalition structure generation algorithms can establish any bound because they search fewer nodes than a threshold that we show necessary for establishing a bound. We present an algorithm that establishes a tight bound within this minimal amount of search, and show that any other algorithm would have to search strictly more. The fraction of nodes needed to be searched approaches zero as the number of agents grows. If additional time remains, our anytime algorithm searches further, and establishes a progressively lower tight bound. Surprisingly, just searching one more node drops the bound in half. As desired, our algorithm lowers the bound rapidly early on, and exhibits diminishing returns to computation. It also significantly outperforms its obvious contenders. Finally, we show how to distribute the desired
Truth revelation in approximately efficient combinatorial auctions
 Journal of the ACM
, 2002
"... Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard ..."
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Cited by 229 (1 self)
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Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard for combinatorial auctions, the Generalized Vickrey Auction (GVA). Traditional analysis of these mechanisms—in particular, their truth revelation properties—assumes that the optimization problems are solved precisely. In reality, these optimization problems can usually be solved only in an approximate fashion. We investigate the impact on such mechanisms of replacing exact solutions by approximate ones. Specifically, we look at a particular greedy optimization method. We show that the GVA payment scheme does not provide for a truth revealing mechanism. We introduce another scheme that does guarantee truthfulness for a restricted class of players. We demonstrate the latter property by identifying natural properties for combinatorial auctions and showing that, for our restricted class of players, they imply that truthful strategies are dominant. Those properties have applicability beyond the specific auction studied.
MarketBased Multirobot Coordination: A Survey and Analysis
, 2006
"... When robots work together as a team, the members that perform each task should be the ones that promise to use the least resources to do the job. ..."
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Cited by 224 (5 self)
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When robots work together as a team, the members that perform each task should be the ones that promise to use the least resources to do the job.
Combinatorial auctions: A survey
, 2000
"... Many auctions involve the sale of a variety of distinct assets. Examples are airport time slots, delivery routes and furniture. Because of complementarities (or substitution effects) between the different assets, bidders have preferences not just for particular items but for sets or bundles of items ..."
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Cited by 214 (1 self)
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Many auctions involve the sale of a variety of distinct assets. Examples are airport time slots, delivery routes and furniture. Because of complementarities (or substitution effects) between the different assets, bidders have preferences not just for particular items but for sets or bundles of items. For this reason, economic efficiency is enhanced if bidders are allowed to bid on bundles or combinations of different assets. This paper surveys the state of knowledge about the design of combinatorial auctions. Second, it uses this subject as a vehicle to convey the aspects of integer programming that are relevant for the
Combinatorial Auctions with Decreasing Marginal Utilities
, 2001
"... This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross s ..."
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Cited by 202 (25 self)
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This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross substitutes property. Those last valuations are shown to form a zeromeasure subset of the submodular valuations that have positive measure. While we show that the allocation problem among submodular valuations is NPhard, we present an efficient greedy 2approximation algorithm for this case and generalize it to the case of limited complementarities. No such approximation algorithm exists in a setting allowing for arbitrary complementarities. Some results about strategic aspects of combinatorial auctions among players with decreasing marginal utilities are also presented.
Iterative Combinatorial Auctions: Theory and Practice
, 2000
"... Combinatorial auctions, which allow agents to bid directly for bundles of resources, are necessary for optimal auctionbased solutions to resource allocation problems with agents that have nonadditive values for resources, such as distributed scheduling and task assignment problems. We introduc ..."
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Cited by 191 (25 self)
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Combinatorial auctions, which allow agents to bid directly for bundles of resources, are necessary for optimal auctionbased solutions to resource allocation problems with agents that have nonadditive values for resources, such as distributed scheduling and task assignment problems. We introduce iBundle, the first iterative combinatorial auction that is optimal for a reasonable agent bidding strategy, in this case myopic bestresponse bidding. Its optimality is proved with a novel connection to primaldual optimization theory. We demonstrate orders of magnitude performance improvements over the only other known optimal combinatorial auction, the Generalized Vickrey Auction.
Winner determination in combinatorial auction generalizations
, 2002
"... Combinatorial markets where bids can be submitted on bundles of items can be economically desirable coordination mechanisms in multiagent systems where the items exhibit complementarity and substitutability. There has been a surge of recent research on winner determination in combinatorial auctions. ..."
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Cited by 175 (23 self)
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Combinatorial markets where bids can be submitted on bundles of items can be economically desirable coordination mechanisms in multiagent systems where the items exhibit complementarity and substitutability. There has been a surge of recent research on winner determination in combinatorial auctions. In this paper we study a wider range of combinatorial market designs: auctions, reverse auctions, and exchanges, with one or multiple units of each item, with and without free disposal. We first theoretically characterize the complexity. The most interesting results are that reverse auctions with free disposal can be approximated, and in all of the cases without free disposal, even finding a feasible solution is ÆÈcomplete. We then ran experiments on known benchmarks as well as ones which we introduced, to study the complexity of the market variants in practice. Cases with free disposal tended to be easier than ones without. On many distributions, reverse auctions with free disposal were easier than auctions with free disposal— as the approximability would suggest—but interestingly, on one of the most realistic distributions they were harder. Singleunit exchanges were easy, but multiunit exchanges were extremely hard. 1
Towards a universal test suite for combinatorial auction algorithms
 In ACM Electronic Commerce
, 2000
"... General combinatorial auctions—auctions in which bidders place unrestricted bids for bundles of goods—are the subject of increasing study. Much of this work has focused on algorithms for finding an optimal or approximately optimal set of winning bids. Comparatively little attention has been paid to ..."
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Cited by 161 (11 self)
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General combinatorial auctions—auctions in which bidders place unrestricted bids for bundles of goods—are the subject of increasing study. Much of this work has focused on algorithms for finding an optimal or approximately optimal set of winning bids. Comparatively little attention has been paid to methodical evaluation and comparison of these algorithms. In particular, there has not been a systematic discussion of appropriate data sets that can serve as universally accepted and well motivated benchmarks. In this paper we present a suite of distribution families for generating realistic, economically motivated combinatorial bids in five broad realworld domains. We hope that this work will yield many comments, criticisms and extensions, bringing the community closer to a universal combinatorial auction test suite.