A Distributed Task Allocation Algorithm for a Multi-Robot System in Healthcare Facilities

Gautham Das, TM McGinnity, SA Coleman, Laxmidhar Behera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Various ambient assisted living (AAL) technologies have been proposed for improving the living conditions of elderly people. One of them is to introduce robots to reduce dependency on support staff. The tasks commonly encountered in a healthcare facility such as a care home for elderly people are heterogeneous and are of different priorities. A care home environment is also dynamic and new emergency priority tasks, which if not attended shortly may result in fatal situations, may randomly appear. Therefore, it is better to use a multi-robot system (MRS) consisting of heterogeneous robots than designing a single robot capable of doing all tasks. An efficient task allocation algorithm capable of handling the dynamic nature of the environment, the heterogeneity of robots and tasks, and the prioritisation of tasks is required to reap the benefits of introducing an MRS. This paper proposes Consensus Based Parallel Auction and Execution (CBPAE), a distributed algorithm for task allocation in a system of multiple heterogeneous autonomous robots deployed in a healthcare facility, based on auction and consensus principles. Unlike many of the existing market based task allocation algorithms, which use a time extended allocation of tasks before the actual execution is initialised, the proposed algorithm uses a parallel auction and execution framework, and is thus suitable for highly dynamic real world environments. The robots continuously resolve any conflicts in the bids on tasks using inter-robot communication and a consensus process in each robot before a task is assigned to a robot. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the CBPAE by comparing its simulation results with those of an existing market based distributed multi-robot task allocation algorithm and through experiments on real robots.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 14 Nov 2014


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