Ant Colony Optimisation for E-Learning Applications Over a Secure Network

This work was initiated when Paraschool, the French leading e-learning company contacted the INRIA research center to conceive an automatic algorithm that would allow the relatively rigid albeit functional existing Paraschool software to behave differently depending on user specificities. After several brainstorming sessions where neural networks, evolutionary algorithms and other artificially intelligent techniques were considered, it appeared that swarm-like algorithms could be used, thanks to the great number of actual users (more than 10000) and more especially ant-based probabilistic optimisation that could easily be grafted on the existing pedagogical graph constituted by the Paraschool software.

Moreover, Ant Colony systems present the interesting property of exhibiting emergent behaviour that allow individuals to benefit from the dynamic experience acquired by the collectivity, which means, in pedagogic terms that a student could benefit from the pedagogic lessons drawn out of his peers’ successes and failures.

The implementation of these algorithms yields results that go beyond the requirements of the Paraschool company which will soon be experimenting in real size the automatic dynamic optimisation of the pedagogic graph (their set of interconnected lessons and exercises) implemented by their software. This paper successively presents a concise description of human-learning concepts and their software implementation, a short description of the technical implementation of the Ant-Colony based optimisation algorithm and a discussion on the use of various selection operators. A set of experiments is then conducted, showing that erroneous arc probabilities can be automatically corrected by the system.


The main concepts of teaching and learning used nowadays are still very old. The two main currents are Constructivism, that was elaborated by Kant and Behaviourism: a theory that came from Pavlov’s experiments.

A. Constructivism

In 1781, Kant tried to synthesize rationalist and empiricist viewpoints. Kant sees the mind as an active agent, that organizes and coordinates experiences. Along these lines, Piaget states that knowledge is not simply “acquired,” by children bit by bit, but constructed into coherent, robust frameworks called
“knowledge structures.” Children are not passive absorbers of experience and information, but active theory builders. Papert, a mathematician, and one of the early pioneers of Artificial Intelligence (he founded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT), worked with Piaget at the University of Geneva



All nodes (html pages) of the new Paraschool software now contain a new ACO-powered NEXT button that leads the user along an arc chosen by a selection algorithm (see section V), based on the probability associated with the arc. This probability is computed by taking several factors into account in the design of a weighted fitness function described in the next section. These factors are the following and play at both
the individual and collective levels:

A. Pedagogic Weights: W

This pedagogical weight is the main value of each arc. It is implemented as a static (i.e. “global”) variable (W), accessible to all ants. (W) is set by the Paraschool teachers and reflects the relative importance of the arcs that come out of a particular node. In other words, the teachers encourage the students to go toward such or such exercise after such or such lesson by giving the corresponding arc a higher weight. This valuation of the graph describes the pedagogic structure that will be optimized by the ACO algorithm

B. Pheromones: S and F

There are two kinds of pheromones that can be released on arcs to reflect students’ activity:

S: success pheromone.
This floating point value is incremented by ants/students on the adequate incoming arcs when
they are successful in completing the corresponding exercise.

F: failure pheromone.
This last value is S’s counterpart for failure. These pheromones are released not only on the arc that
led the ant to that node but also on previous ones in the ant’s history with decreasing amplitude.

This is meant to reflect the fact that the outcome of a particular node (exercise) is influenced by all the nodes (lessons, exercises) the ant went through before but with an influence that, of course, diminishes with time. For obvious pragmatical reasons, this “back propagation” of pheromone release is limited in scope (atypical value of 4 has been agreed upon). To illustrate this, let us consider an ant that went through nodes A,B,C,D,E,F and that reaches node G. When it validates node G with success, 1 unit of success pheromone is dropped on arc (F,G), 1/2 unit on arc (E,F), 1/3 of a unit on arc (D,E) and 1/4 on arc (C,D). In addition, to allow for dynamic adaptability of these pheromone amounts (S and F), evaporation is performed on a regular basis, usually every day, by reducing S and F in a given proportion _ typically around 0.999.


Paraschool wanted a smart automatic system that could adapt to different users without manual intervention, which would be totally unrealistic to envisage on 10000 students. The ant-based system described in this paper not only offers such automatic features by gradually modifying pedagogic paths suggested by teachers using collective experience and by making the structure individual-specific thanks to variables such as H but also comes up with emergent informations that can be used as a refined auditing tool to help the pedagogical team identify the strengths and weaknesses of the software and pedagogic material.

From a more theoretical standpoint, this work can be seen as a new take on Interactive Evolutionary Computation where the solution to a problem is gradually constructed and modified by multiple interacting entities with different and possibly opposite goals. A creative and robust compromise can be reached that balances all the influences and constraints, which allows all participating entities to benefit from an emergent culture and to enhance their decision making processes accordingly. This suggest a great deal of new and exciting applications in the field of Collective Cognition Modelling and Collective Evolutionary Design.

Protect People And Property With A Monitored Home Security Network

A monitored home security network provides homeowners an affordable and effective way to keep occupants safe and protect their investment in the house and its contents. These services monitor the property around the clock and every day of the year. Alarm systems alert the service provider in the event of burglaries, fires, medical emergencies, floods and other situations where the home’s occupants are in need of help.

The standard alarm system to prevent burglary or theft is a basic closed circuit that surrounds the house. Installers typically attach sensors to the hardware in doors, windows and other entryways. As long as the system remains activated, if someone forces open the window or door, the sensors will sound the alarm.

Systems installed outdoors often have motion sensors. If anyone walks near the sensors, bright lights will be turned on, thus exposing the intruder. This is often enough of a deterrent to convince the intruder to leave immediately.

Pet owners used to stay away from motion detectors because they were worried about false alarms. With advancements in technology, certain motion sensors are able to distinguish between humans and pets. The sensors use mass and weight parameters to tell the difference between a small pet and a human.

The system will usually include a digital keypad installed somewhere near the front entryway. Homeowners use a personal code to arm or disarm the system. The keypad may also provide a convenient and fast way to contact local police, fire and other emergency responders.

Some systems also include a keychain remote. With the remote, the homeowner can control the alarm system from anywhere inside the house with no need to walk to where the keypad is installed. The portable remote also works from outside the house within a certain distance.

Consumers should purchase a system that has battery backup. This feature is especially valuable in areas that frequently lose power due to storms. An emergency backup lets homeowners rest assured their property remains protected without interruption.

To discourage trespassers, homeowners can display yard signs and window decals in strategic places. Decals and signs indicate the property is protected by an alarm system. Burglars usually look for an easy target to exploit. They are far more likely to move along when they see any evidence of an alarm or surveillance system on the property.

Consumers can choose a system with a control panel that doubles as an intercom with two-way communications capabilities. With this setup, the control panel will respond to voice commands from almost anywhere inside the house. Residents can still request help from an emergency dispatcher even if something is preventing them from interacting directly with the control panel.

Homeowners with a reliable monitored home security network know that help will be on the way at the first sign of a fire, break in or any other type of emergency. They can relax when they travel knowing their property is under protection 24 hours a day. Purchasing a security system is a wise investment because it can save lives and protect your property.

Secure, Network Compliant BYOD Solutions Are NOT a Myth

In a recent article featured on, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is described as an inevitable component of the evolving office ecosystem. In the same article, a statistic borrowed from an IBM study & reveals that 81% of organizations reported their employees are using their personal mobile devices to connect to “company resources”. If you are an AV integrator or the head of IT, this statistic probably conjures fears of rampant network security risks.

But BYOD doesn’t necessarily equate to network security problems. Based on the current trend of using mobile devices in the workplace – secure, network compliant BYOD solutions are almost certain to arrive in the very near future. It is up to technology innovators to meet the market demand by developing, testing, vetting, and integrating the products to keep up with the trends we see around us. In short, embracing the changing workplace dynamics – and the products that support them – is likely the only way forward.

Like any other disruptive trend in technology, there are growing pains in the adoption phase. One of the biggest growing pains for BYOD in the workplace is security. So what does a secure BYOD solution look like?

We have identified 3 key criteria for secure, network compliant BYOD solutions.

1. Routable TCP/IP Traffic with Adjustable Base Ports

The complexity of many corporate and campus networks is often matched only by their uniqueness. After all, the many subnets and VLANs included on the enterprise network were set up to serve the unique requirements of the specific organization. Therefore the likelihood of any other enterprise having the same network setup is infinitesimally small. This is why it’s so important that BYOD solutions that hit the network feature routable TCP/IP traffic with adjustable base ports – so the solution can be configured flexibly to fit the network without creating additional, unnecessary work for the IT department. This is also important in order to avoid violating IT policy, which could prohibit the deployment altogether.

2. Controlling Access from all those Devices

Another security risk associated with BYOD revolves around the regulation of access in the workplace once these devices are supported on the network. To use a common use case as an example, if a wireless BYOD presentation is taking place in the conference room, how do you prevent uninvited users from sharing content to from their device and disrupting the meeting?

For this reason, access control is our second criteria for BYOD solutions. A solution to this challenge would be to offer multiple access modes that can be set in-room or remotely. Access could then also be locked by an admin or left up to users in the room to determine when beginning a session. Additionally, access control options could be dynamic, which means they could be changed during a meeting without interrupting the flow of information posted to the shared display.

In addition to these modes, it would be ideal if any session could be closed once all in attendance have joined. This combination of access control options creates secure access for nearly every type of meeting and use case.

3. Remote/Centralized Management

It’s a hard truth that nearly all technology crashes at some point or another, and those crashes can lead to big issues for the IT department and the network. That’s why remote/centralized control is such an important factor for BYOD solutions, especially large deployments.

Not having the ability to monitor, configure, and update BYOD solutions on your network from a remote/centralized work station makes larger, more complex deployments difficult to manage. Ideally, there would be a way to support remote/centralized management of every instance across the network. Network administrators could then monitor, configure, and update settings for any/all instances from their workstation anywhere on the network.

With BYOD becoming a standard in work spaces, security is and will remain a paramount concern and consideration for evaluating new solutions. The best solutions with work with your existing network and make it (relatively) easy for your IT department to securely deploy, monitor, and manage the system. BYOD presents many inherent risks, but many of these risks can and should be addressed by solutions that work within secure network environments.