Decentralized Markets versus Central Control: A Comparative Study

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Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) promise to offer solutions to problems where established, older paradigms fall short. In order to validate such claims that are repeatedly made in software agent publications, empirical in-depth studies of advantages and weaknesses of multi-agent solutions versus conventional ones in practical applications are needed. Climate control in large buildings is one application area where multi-agent systems, and market-oriented programming in particular, have been reported to be very successful, although central control solutions are still the standard practice. We have therefore constructed and implemented a variety of market designs for this problem, as well as different standard control engineering solutions. This article gives a detailed analysis and comparison, so as to learn about differences between standard versus agent approaches, and yielding new insights about benefits and limitations of computational markets. An important outcome is that ``local information plus market communication produces global control''.

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