Polynomial Counting in Anonymous Dynamic Networks with Applications to Anonymous Dynamic Algebraic Computations

Dariusz R. Kowalski, Miguel A. Mosteiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Starting with with work of Michail et al., the problem of Counting the number of nodes in Anonymous Dynamic Networks has attracted a lot of attention. The problem is challenging because nodes are indistinguishable (they lack identifiers and execute the same program), and the topology may change arbitrarily from round to round of communication, as long as the network is connected in each round. The problem is central in distributed computing, as the number of participants is frequently needed to make important decisions, including termination, agreement, synchronization, among others. A variety of distributed algorithms built on top of mass-distribution techniques have been presented, analyzed, and experimentally evaluated; some of them assumed additional knowledge of network characteristics, such as bounded degree or given upper bound on the network size. However, the question of whether Counting can be solved deterministically in sub-exponential time remained open. In this work, we answer this question positively by presenting Methodical Counting, which runs in polynomial time and requires no knowledge of network characteristics. Moreover, we also show how to extend Methodical Counting to compute the sum of input values and more complex functions without extra cost. Our analysis leverages previous work on random walks in evolving graphs, combined with carefully chosen alarms in the algorithm that control the process and its parameters. To the best of our knowledge, our Counting algorithm and its extensions to other algebraic and Boolean functions are the first that can be implemented in practice with worst-case guarantees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalJournal of the ACM
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2020


  • Anonymous Dynamic Networks
  • Boolean functions
  • counting
  • deterministic algorithms
  • distributed algorithms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Artificial Intelligence


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