Distributed artificial intelligence

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Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) also called Decentralized Artificial Intelligence [1] is a subfield of artificial intelligence research dedicated to the development of distributed solutions for problems. DAI is closely related to and a predecessor of the field of Multi-Agent Systems.



Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) is an approach to solving complex learning, planning, and decision making problems. It is embarrassingly parallel, thus able to exploit large scale computation and spatial distribution of computing resources. These properties allow it to solve problems that require the processing of very large data sets. DAI systems consist of autonomous learning processing nodes (agents), that are distributed, often at a very large scale. DAI nodes can act independently and partial solutions are integrated by communication between nodes, often asynchronously. By virtue of their scale, DAI systems are robust and elastic, and by necessity, loosely coupled. Furthermore, DAI systems are built to be adaptive to changes in the problem definition or underlying data sets due to the scale and difficulty in redeployment.

DAI systems do not require all the relevant data to be aggregated in a single location, in contrast to monolithic or centralized Artificial Intelligence systems which have tightly coupled and geographically close processing nodes. Therefore, DAI systems often operate on sub-samples or hashed impressions of very large datasets. In addition, the source dataset may change or be updated during the course of the execution of a DAI system.


The objectives of Distributed Artificial Intelligence are to solve the reasoning, planning, learning and perception problems of Artificial Intelligence, especially if they require large data, by distributing the problem to autonomous processing nodes (agents). To reach the objective, DAI requires:

There are many reasons for wanting to distribute intelligence or cope with multi-agent systems. Mainstream problems in DAI research include the following:


In the 1975 distributed artificial intelligence emerged as a subfield of artificial intelligence that dealt with interaction of intelligent agents[2]. Distributed artificial intelligence systems were conceived as a group of intelligent entities, called agents, that interacted by cooperation, by coexistence or by competition. DAI is categorized into Multi-agent systems and distributed problem solving [1]. In Multi-agent systems the main focus is how agents coordinate their knowledge and activities. For distributed problem solving the major focus is how the problem is decomposed and the solutions are synthesized.


Multi-agent systems and distributed problem solving are the two main DAI approaches. There are numerous applications and tools.


Two types of DAI has emerged:

DAI can apply a bottom-up approach to AI, similar to the subsumption architecture as well as the traditional top-down approach of AI. In addition, DAI can also be a vehicle for emergence.


Areas where DAI have been applied are:


Agents and Multi-agent systems

Notion of Agents: Agents can be described as distinct entities with standard boundaries and interfaces designed for problem solving.

Notion of Multi-Agents:Multi-Agent system is defined as a network of agents which are loosely coupled working as a single entity like society for problem solving that an individual agent cannot solve.

Software agents

The key concept used in DPS and MABS is the abstraction called software agents. An agent is a virtual (or physical) autonomous entity that has an understanding of its environment and acts upon it. An agent is usually able to communicate with other agents in the same system to achieve a common goal, that one agent alone could not achieve. This communication system uses an agent communication language.

A first classification that is useful is to divide agents into:

Well-recognized agent architectures that describe how an agent is internally structured are:


The challenges in Distributed AI are:

1.How to carry out communication and interaction of agents and which communication language or protocols should be used.

2.How to ensure the coherency of agents.

3.How to synthesise the results among 'intelligent agents' group by formulation, description, decomposition and allocation.

See also


  1. Demazeau, Yves, and J-P. Müller, eds. Decentralized Ai. Vol. 2. Elsevier, 1990.
  2. Catterson, Victoria M.; Davidson, Euan M.; McArthur, Stephen D. J. (2012-03-01). "Practical applications of multi-agent systems in electric power systems" (PDF). European Transactions on Electrical Power. 22 (2): 235–252. doi:10.1002/etep.619. ISSN   1546-3109.

Artificial Intelligence Review, 6(1):35-66, 1992.

intelligence, pages 187-210, 1996.

and design support. Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, 11(6):573-589, 2000.

Further reading