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Concluding Remarks


We have introduced a new paradigm for implementing belief-network inference that is oriented towards real-world, on-line applications. The proposed framework utilizes knowledge of query and evidence variables in an application to compile a belief network into an arithmetic expression called a Query DAG (Q-DAG). Each node of a Q-DAG represents a numeric operation, a number, or a symbol that depends on available evidence. Each leaf node of a Q-DAG represents the answer to a network query, that is, the probability of some event of interest. Inference on Q-DAGs is linear in their size and amounts to a standard evaluation of the arithmetic expressions they represent.

A most important point to stress about the work reported here is that it is not proposing a new algorithm for belief-network inference. What we are proposing is a paradigm for implementing belief-network inference that is orthogonal to standard inference algorithms and is engineered to meet the demands of real-world, on-line applications. This class of applications is typically demanding for the following reasons:

  1. It typically requires very short response time, i.e., milliseconds.
  2. It requires software to be written in specialized languages, such as ADA, C++, and assembly before it can pass certification procedures.
  3. It imposes severe restrictions on the available software and hardware resources in order to keep the cost of a ``unit'' (such as an electromechanical device) as low as possible.
To address these real-world constraints, we are proposing that one compile a belief network into a Q-DAG as shown in Figure 3 on and use a Q-DAG evaluator for on-line reasoning. This brings down the required memory to that needed for storing a Q-DAG and its evaluator. It also brings down the required software to that needed for implementing a Q-DAG evaluator, which is very simple as we have seen earlier.

Our proposed approach still requires a belief-network algorithm to generate a Q-DAG, but it makes the efficiency of such an algorithm less of a critical factor.[+] For example, we show that some standard optimizations in belief-network inference, such as pruning and caching, become less critical in a Q-DAG framework since these optimizations tend to be subsumed by simple Q-DAG reduction techniques, such as numeric reduction.

The work reported in this paper can be extended in at least two ways. First, further Q-DAG reduction techniques could be explored, some oriented towards reducing the evaluation time of Q-DAGs, others towards minimizing the memory needed to store them. Second, we have shown that some optimization techniques that dramatically improve belief-network algorithms may become irrelevant to the size of Q-DAGs if Q-DAG reduction is employed. Further investigation is needed to prove formal results and guarantees on the effectiveness of Q-DAG reduction.

We close this section by noting that the framework we proposed is also applicable to order-of-magnitude (OMP) belief networks, where multiplication and addition get replaced by addition and minimization, respectively [GoldszmidtGoldszmidt1992, Darwiche GoldszmidtDarwiche \ Goldszmidt1994]. The OMP Q-DAG evaluator, however, is much more efficient than its probabilistic counterpart since one may evaluate a minimization node without having to evaluate all its parents in many cases. This can make considerable difference in the performance of a Q-DAG evaluator.

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Next: Acknowledgements Up: Query DAGs: A Practical Previous: Q-DAG Evaluation