An Online Reinforcement Learning Approach to Quality-cost-aware Task Allocation for Multi-attribute Social Sensing

Yang Zhang, Daniel (Yue) Zhang, Nathan Vance, Dong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social sensing has emerged as a new sensing paradigm where humans (or devices on their behalf) collectively report measurements about the physical world. This paper focuses on a quality-cost-aware task allocation problem in multi-attribute social sensing applications. The goal is to identify a task allocation strategy (i.e., decide when and where to collect sensing data) to achieve an optimized tradeoff between the data quality and the sensing cost. While recent progress has been made to tackle similar problems, three important challenges have not been well addressed: (i) “online task allocation”: the task allocation schemes need to respond quickly to the potentially large dynamics of the measured variables in social sensing; (ii) “multi-attribute constrained optimization”: minimizing the overall sensing error given the dependencies and constraints of multiple attributes of the measured variables is a non-trivial problem to solve; (iii) “nonuniform task allocation cost”: the task allocation cost in social sensing often has a nonuniform distribution which adds additional complexity to the optimized task allocation problem. This paper develops a Quality-Cost-Aware Online Task Allocation (QCO-TA) scheme to address the above challenges using a principled online reinforcement learning framework. We evaluate the QCO-TA scheme through a real-world social sensing application and the results show that our scheme significantly outperforms the state-of-the-art baselines in terms of both sensing accuracy and cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101086
JournalPervasive and Mobile Computing
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Multi-attribute optimization
  • Online reinforcement learning
  • Quality-cost-aware task allocation
  • Social sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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