The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 110


1 September 2006

Principles and Concepts of Agent-Based Modelling for Developing Geospatial Simulations

The aim of this paper is to outline fundamental concepts and principles of the Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) paradigm, with particular reference to the development of geospatial simulations. The paper begins with a brief definition of modelling, followed by a classification of model types, and a comment regarding a shift (in certain circumstances) towards modelling systems at the individual-level. In particular, automata approaches (e.g. Cellular Automata, CA, and ABM) have been particularly popular, with ABM moving to the fore. A definition of agents and agent-based models is given; identifying their advantages and disadvantages, especially in relation to geospatial modelling. The potential use of agent-based models is discussed, and how-to instructions for developing an agent-based model are provided. Types of simulation / modelling systems available for ABM are defined, supplemented with criteria to consider before choosing a particular system for a modelling endeavour. Information pertaining to a selection of simulation / modelling systems (Swarm, MASON, Repast, StarLogo, NetLogo, OBEUS, AgentSheets and AnyLogic) is provided, categorised by their licensing policy (open source, shareware / freeware and proprietary systems). The evaluation (i.e. verification, calibration, validation and analysis) of agent-based models and their output is examined, and noteworthy applications are discussed.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are a particularly useful medium for representing model input and output of a geospatial nature. However, GIS are not well suited to dynamic modelling (e.g. ABM). In particular, problems of representing time and change within GIS are highlighted. Consequently, this paper explores the opportunity of linking (through coupling or integration / embedding) a GIS with a simulation / modelling system purposely built, and therefore better suited to supporting the requirements of ABM. This paper concludes with a synthesis of the discussion that has proceeded.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 1179KB.

Authors: Andrew Crooks, Christian Castle

Publication Date: 1/9/2006

Download working paper No. 110.