Note: This post is now dated and MASON and Repast has changed considerably since this was written. A new post will soon be written (14th July 2010) but in the meantime please see the comments below.This blog has tended to focus on Repast when developing agent-based models as it is the toolkit we most often use to create such models. However, we felt it was time to highlight other open source Simulation/Modelling Systems that allow for the creation of geospatial agent-based models. These include Swarm and MASON. A comparison of Repast, Swam and Mason can be seen in the table below (adapted from Najlis et al., 2001 and Parker, 2001a). The reminder of this post provides further information about each system, identifying examples of geospatial agent-based models that have been developed with these systems. Please feel free to comment on these systems and to highlight other geospatial models developed with these systems.
Swarm is an open source simulation/modelling system designed specifically for the development of multi-agent simulations of complex adaptive systems (Swarm, 2006); although agent-based models can easily be developed using Swarm as well. Originally developed in Objective-C, Swarm is also now available in Java (a Java layer running on top of the Swarm kernel). Inspired by Artificial Life, Swarm was designed to study biological systems, attempting to infer mechanisms observable in biological phenomena (Minar et al., 1996). In addition to modelling biological systems, Swarm has been used to develop models for anthropological, computer science, ecological, economic, geographical, and political science purposes. Useful examples of spatially explicit models include: the simulation of pedestrians in the urban centres (Schelhorn et al., 1999 and Haklay et al., 2001), and the examination of crowd congestion at London’s Notting Hill Carnival (Batty et al., 2003). Najlis et al. (2001) identify the steep learning curve of Swarm as a significant factor to consider before choosing this system to develop an agent-based model, although this should be less of a problem for a modeller with strong programming skills. Many of the other toolkits take their inspiration from Swarm (such as Repast and Ascape (Parker, 2001b)).
MASON (Multi Agent Simulation Of Neighbourhood) was developed by the Evolutionary Computation Laboratory (ECLab) and the Centre for Social Complexity at
To read more about the comparison of different Simulation / Modelling Systems for the creation of geospatial agent-based models check out our working paper ‘Principles and Concepts of Agent-Based Modelling for Developing Geospatial Simulations’.
Batty, M., Desyllas, J. and Duxbury, E. (2003), 'Safety in Numbers? Modelling Crowds and Designing Control for the Notting Hill Carnival', Urban Studies, 40(8): 1573-1590.
Castle, C.E. (2006), 'Using Repast to Develop a Prototype Agent-Based Pedestrian Evacuation Model', Proceedings of the Agent 2006 Conference on Social Agents: Results and Prospects,
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 (
Collier, N. and North, M.J. (2005), 'Repast for Python Scripting', Annual Conference of the North American Association for Computational Social and Organizational Science (NAACSOS) Notre Dame, Indiana, USA.
Crooks, A.T. (2007), The Repast Simulation/Modelling System for Geospatial Simulation, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (
Haklay, M., O'Sullivan, D., Thurstain-Goodwin, M. and Schelhorn, T. (2001), '"So Go Downtown": Simulating Pedestrian Movement in Town Centres', Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 28(3): 343-359.
Luke, S., Cioffi-Revilla, C., Panait, L. and Sullivan, K. (2004), 'MASON: A New Multi-Agent Simulation Toolkit', SwarmFest 2004, Eighth Annual Swarm Users/Researchers Conference., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA.
MASON (2006), Multi Agent Simulation Of Neighbourhood, Available at http://cs.gmu.edu/~eclab/projects/mason
Minar, N., Burkhart, R., Langton, C. and Askenazi, M. (1996), The Swarm Simulation System: A Toolkit for Building Multi-agent Simulations, Available at http://www.santafe.edu/projects/swarm/overview/overview.html [Accessed on August 8th, 2006].
Najlis, R., Janssen, M.A. and Parker, D.C. (2001), 'Software Tools and Communication Issues', in Parker, D.C., Berger, T. and Manson, S.M. (eds.), Meeting the Challenge of Complexity: Proceedings of a Special Workshop on Land-Use/Land-Cover Change,
Parker, D.C. (2001a), Object-Orientated Packages for Agent-Based Modelling, Available at http://mason.gmu.edu/~dparker3/spat_abm/lectures/lecture2_tables.pdf
Parker, M. (2001b), 'What is Ascape and Why Should You Care?' Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 4(1): http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/4/1/5.html.
Redlands Institute (2006), What is Agent Analyst?, Available at http://www.institute.redlands.edu/agentanalyst/AgentAnalyst.html
Swarm (2006), Swarm: a platform for agent-based models, Available at http://www.swarm.org/