Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Principles and Concepts of Agent-Based Modelling for Developing Geospatial Simulations

Christian and I have just finished writing a working paper entitled “Principles and Concepts of Agent-Based Modelling for Developing Geospatial Simulations

The aim of this paper is to outline fundamental concepts and principles of the Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) paradigm, with particular reference to the development of geospatial simulations. The paper begins with a brief definition of modelling, followed by a classification of model types, and a comment regarding a shift (in certain circumstances) towards modelling systems at the individual-level. In particular, automata approaches (e.g. Cellular Automata, CA, and ABM) have been particularly popular, with ABM moving to the fore. A definition of agents and agent-based models is given; identifying their advantages and disadvantages, especially in relation to geospatial modelling. The potential use of agent-based models is discussed, and how-to instructions for developing an agent-based model are provided. Types of simulation / modelling systems available for ABM are defined, supplemented with criteria to consider before choosing a particular system for a modelling endeavour. Information pertaining to a selection of simulation / modelling systems (Swarm, MASON, Repast, StarLogo, NetLogo, OBEUS, AgentSheets and AnyLogic) is provided, categorised by their licensing policy (open source, shareware / freeware and proprietary systems). The evaluation (i.e. verification, calibration, validation and analysis) of agent-based models and their output is examined, and noteworthy applications are discussed.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are a particularly useful medium for representing model input and output of a geospatial nature. However, GIS are not well suited to dynamic modelling (e.g. ABM). In particular, problems of representing time and change within GIS are highlighted. Consequently, this paper explores the opportunity of linking (through coupling or integration / embedding) a GIS with a simulation / modelling system purposely built, and therefore better suited to supporting the requirements of ABM. This paper concludes with a synthesis of the discussion that has proceeded.

Key Words: Agent-Based Modelling (ABM), agent-based models, geospatial / spatially explicit modelling, verification, calibration, validation, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), linkage (coupling or embedding / integration).

The paper is available for download at the CASA website under working papers. Alternatively click here.

Full Reference: 
Castle, C. J. E. and Crooks, A. T. (2006), Principles and Concepts of Agent-Based Modelling for Developing Geospatial Simulations, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (University College London): Working Paper 110, London, England. (pdf)

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