Approximation algorithms for sequential batch-testing of series systems

Rebi Daldal, Iftah Gamzu, Danny Segev*, Tonguç Ünlüyurt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We introduce and study a generalization of the classic sequential testing problem, asking to identify the correct state of a given series system that consists of independent stochastic components. In this setting, costly tests are required to examine the state of individual components, which are sequentially tested until the correct system state can be uniquely identified. The goal is to propose a policy that minimizes the expected testing cost, given a-priori probabilistic information on the stochastic nature of each individual component. Unlike the classic setting, where variables are tested one after the other, we allow multiple tests to be conducted simultaneously, at the expense of incurring an additional set-up cost. The main contribution of this article consists in showing that the batch testing problem can be approximated in polynomial time within factor 6.829 + ϵ, for any fixed ϵ ∈ (0,1). In addition, we explain how, in spite of its highly nonlinear objective function, the batch testing problem can be formulated as an approximate integer program of polynomial size, while blowing up its expected cost by a factor of at most 1 + ϵ. Finally, we conduct extensive computational experiments, to demonstrate the practical effectiveness of these algorithms as well as to evaluate their limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalNaval Research Logistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • approximation algorithms
  • function evaluation
  • integer programming
  • sequential testing


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