The Batched Set Cover Problem

Juan C. Martínez Mori, Samitha Samaranayake

We introduce the batched set cover problem, which is a generalization of the online set cover problem. In this problem, the elements of the ground set that need to be covered arrive in batches. Our main technical contribution is a tight $\Omega(H_{m - 2^z + 1})$ lower bound on the competitive ratio of any fractional batched algorithm given an adversary that is required to produce batches of VC-dimension at least $z$, for some $z \in \mathbb{N}^0$. This restriction on the adversary is motivated by the fact that, in some real world applications, decisions are made after collecting batches of data of non-trivial VC-dimension. In particular, ridesharing systems rely on the batch assignment of trip requests to vehicles, and some related problems such as that of optimal congregation points for passenger pickups and dropoffs can be modeled as a batched set cover problem with VC-dimension greater than or equal to two. Furthermore, we note that while any online algorithm may be used to solve the batched set cover problem by artificially sequencing the elements in a batch, this procedure may neglect the rich information encoded in the complex interactions between the elements of a batch and the sets that contain them. Therefore, we propose a minor modification to an online algorithm found in [8] to obtain an algorithm that attempts to exploit such information. Unfortunately, we are unable to improve its analysis in a way that reflects this intuition. However, we present computational experiments that provide empirical evidence of a constant factor improvement in the competitive ratio. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to use the VC-dimension in the context of online (batched) covering problems.

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