Representations and Parameterizations of Combinatorial Auctions
Loker, David Ryan
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Combinatorial auctions (CAs) are an important mechanism for allocating multiple items while allowing agents to specify preferences over bundles of items. In order to communicate these preferences, agents submit bids, which consist of one or more items and a value indicating the agent’s preference for these items. The process of determining the allocation of items is known as the winner determination problem (WDP). WDP for CAs is known to be NP-complete in the general case. We consider two distinct graph representations of a CA; the bid graph and the item graph. In a bid graph, vertices represent bids, and two vertices are adjacent if and only if the bids share items in common. In an item graph, each vertex represents a unique item, there is a vertex for each item, and any bid submitted by any agent must induce a connected subgraph of the item graph. We introduce a new definition of combinatorial auction equivalence by declaring two CAs equivalent if and only if their bid graphs are isomorphic. Parameterized complexity theory can be used to further distinguish between NP-hard problems. In order to make use of parameterized complexity theory in the investigation of a problem, we aim to find one or more parameters that describe some aspect of the problem such that if we fix these parameters, then either the problem is still hard (fixed-parameter intractable), or the problem can be solved in polynomial time (fixed-parameter tractable). We analyze WDP using bid graphs from within the formal scope of parameterized complexity theory. This approach has not previously been used to analyze WDP for CAs, although it has been used to solve set packing, which is related to WDP for CAs and is discussed in detail. We investigate a few parameterizations of WDP; some of the parameterizations are shown to be fixed-parameter intractable, while others are fixed-parameter tractable. We also analyze WDP when the graph class of a bid graph is restricted. We also discuss relationships between item graphs and bid graphs. Although both graphs can represent the same problem, there is little previous work analyzing direct relationships between them. Our discussion on these relationships begins with a result by Conitzer et al. , which focuses on the item graph representation and its treewidth, a property of a graph that measures how close the graph is to a tree. From a result by Gavril, if an item graph has treewidth one, then the bid graph must be chordal . To apply the other direction of Gavril’s theorem, we use our new definition of CA equivalence. With this new definition, Gavril’s result shows that if a bid graph of a CA is chordal, then we can construct an item graph that has treewidth one for some equivalent CA.