Distributed anonymous discrete function computation

Julien M. Hendrickx, Alex Olshevsky, John N. Tsitsiklis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We propose a model for deterministic distributed function computation by a network of identical and anonymous nodes. In this model, each node has bounded computation and storage capabilities that do not grow with the network size. Furthermore, each node only knows its neighbors, not the entire graph. Our goal is to characterize the class of functions that can be computed within this model. In our main result, we provide a necessary condition for computability which we show to be nearly sufficient, in the sense that every function that violates this condition can at least be approximated. The problem of computing (suitably rounded) averages in a distributed manner plays a central role in our development; we provide an algorithm that solves it in time that grows quadratically with the size of the network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5978198
Pages (from-to)2276-2289
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Averaging algorithms
  • distributed computing
  • distributed control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Cite this

Hendrickx, J. M., Olshevsky, A., & Tsitsiklis, J. N. (2011). Distributed anonymous discrete function computation. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 56(10), 2276-2289. [5978198]. https://doi.org/10.1109/TAC.2011.2163874