Greedy Algorithms for Sequential Sensing Decisions

In many real-world situations we are charged with detecting change as soon as possible. Important examples include detecting medical conditions, detecting security breaches, and updating caches of distributed databases. In those situations, sensing can be expensive, but it is also important to detect change in a timely manner. In this paper we present tractable greedy algorithms and prove that they solve this decision problem either optimally or approximate the optimal solution in many cases. Our problem model is a POMDP that includes a cost for sensing, a cost for delayed detection, a reward for successful detection, and no-cost partial observations. Making optimal decisions is difficult in general. We show that our tractable greedy approach finds optimal policies for sensing both a single variable and multiple correlated variables. Further, we provide approximations for the optimal solution to multiple hidden or observed variables per step. Our algorithms outperform previous algorithms in experiments over simulated data and live Wikipedia WWW pages.

Hannaneh Hajishirzi, Afsaneh Shirazi, Jaesik Choi, Eyal Amir