University of Southampton

Decentralised and Autonomous Systems

Physically distributed systems in which multiple stakeholders, all with their own individual preferences and aims interact with one another, are increasingly important within our everyday lives as transportation, health care, utility and emergency response systems steadily make more use of ubiquitous computing and sensing resources. Such systems are significant in that they frequently lack any central point of control, and yet, as system designers, we would like to ensure that these systems exhibit desirable system-wide properties, and can operate with minimal human intervention.

Within AIC we are designing, prototyping and evaluating the technologies that are required to build these systems. We are investigating the fundamental issue of how agents should communicate, negotiate and cooperate, and we are exploiting insights from game theory, economics, graph theory and evolutionary science to engineer robust systems that operate under a decentralised control regime.

Key application domains for this work include the coordination and control of multiple autonomous sensing platforms (such as UAVs – unmanned autonomous vehicles) within a disaster response scenario where first responder must maintain up-to-date situational awareness, and in future energy systems, such as the smart grid, where every home and building across the electricity grid may become both a producer and consumer of electricity, making autonomous decisions that benefit both the homes or building occupants, and also the grid itself.