Online Bin Covering with Advice

Joan Boyar, Lene M. Favrholdt, Shahin Kamali, Kim S. Larsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The bin covering problem asks for covering a maximum number of bins with an online sequence of n items of different sizes in the range (0, 1]; a bin is said to be covered if it receives items of total size at least 1. We study this problem in the advice setting and provide asymptotically tight bounds of Θ(nlogOPT) on the size of advice required to achieve optimal solutions. Moreover, we show that any algorithm with advice of size o(log log n) has a competitive ratio of at most 0.5. In other words, advice of size o(log log n) is useless for improving the competitive ratio of 0.5, attainable by an online algorithm without advice. This result highlights a difference between the bin covering and the bin packing problems in the advice model: for the bin packing problem, there are several algorithms with advice of constant size that outperform online algorithms without advice. Furthermore, we show that advice of size O(log log n) is sufficient to achieve an asymptotic competitive ratio of 0.5 3 ¯ which is strictly better than the best ratio 0.5 attainable by purely online algorithms. The technicalities involved in introducing and analyzing this algorithm are quite different from the existing results for the bin packing problem and confirm the different nature of these two problems. Finally, we show that a linear number of advice bits is necessary to achieve any competitive ratio better than 15/16 for the online bin covering problem.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)795-821
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Advice complexity
  • Bin covering
  • Competitive analysis
  • Online algorithms


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