License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)
When quoting this document, please refer to the following
DOI: 10.4230/LIPIcs.SAND.2022.13
URN: urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-159558
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Doty, David ; Eftekhari, Mahsa

Dynamic Size Counting in Population Protocols

LIPIcs-SAND-2022-13.pdf (0.8 MB)


The population protocol model describes a network of anonymous agents that interact asynchronously in pairs chosen at random. Each agent starts in the same initial state s. We introduce the dynamic size counting problem: approximately counting the number of agents in the presence of an adversary who at any time can remove any number of agents or add any number of new agents in state s. A valid solution requires that after each addition/removal event, resulting in population size n, with high probability each agent "quickly" computes the same constant-factor estimate of the value log₂(n) (how quickly is called the convergence time), which remains the output of every agent for as long as possible (the holding time). Since the adversary can remove agents, the holding time is necessarily finite: even after the adversary stops altering the population, it is impossible to stabilize to an output that never again changes.
We first show that a protocol solves the dynamic size counting problem if and only if it solves the loosely-stabilizing counting problem: that of estimating log n in a fixed-size population, but where the adversary can initialize each agent in an arbitrary state, with the same convergence time and holding time. We then show a protocol solving the loosely-stabilizing counting problem with the following guarantees: if the population size is n, M is the largest initial estimate of log n, and s is the maximum integer initially stored in any field of the agents' memory, we have expected convergence time O(log n + log M), expected polynomial holding time, and expected memory usage of O(log²(s) + (log log n)²) bits. Interpreted as a dynamic size counting protocol, when changing from population size n_prev to n_next, the convergence time is O(log n_next + log log n_prev).

BibTeX - Entry

  author =	{Doty, David and Eftekhari, Mahsa},
  title =	{{Dynamic Size Counting in Population Protocols}},
  booktitle =	{1st Symposium on Algorithmic Foundations of Dynamic Networks (SAND 2022)},
  pages =	{13:1--13:18},
  series =	{Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)},
  ISBN =	{978-3-95977-224-2},
  ISSN =	{1868-8969},
  year =	{2022},
  volume =	{221},
  editor =	{Aspnes, James and Michail, Othon},
  publisher =	{Schloss Dagstuhl -- Leibniz-Zentrum f{\"u}r Informatik},
  address =	{Dagstuhl, Germany},
  URL =		{},
  URN =		{urn:nbn:de:0030-drops-159558},
  doi =		{10.4230/LIPIcs.SAND.2022.13},
  annote =	{Keywords: Loosely-stabilizing, population protocols, size counting}

Keywords: Loosely-stabilizing, population protocols, size counting
Collection: 1st Symposium on Algorithmic Foundations of Dynamic Networks (SAND 2022)
Issue Date: 2022
Date of publication: 29.04.2022
Supplementary Material: Software ((Simulation Results with Colab Notebook)): archived at:

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