Prophet Inequality with Correlated Arrival Probabilities, with Application to Two Sided Matchings

Miscellaneous Talk
Speaker Name
Van-Anh Truong
Date and Time
The talk will be virtual on Zoom.
The Zoom link will be emailed to the CS department, or contact Jennifer Schmidt (jschmidt at to request it.


The classical Prophet Inequality arises from a fundamental problem in optimal-stopping theory. In this problem, a gambler sees a finite sequence of independent, non-negative random variables. If he stops the sequence at any time, he collects a reward equal to the most recent observation. The Prophet Inequality states that, knowing the distribution of each random variable, the gambler can achieve at least half as much reward in expectation, as a prophet who knows the entire sample path of random variables (Krengel and Sucheston 1978). In this paper, we prove a corresponding bound for correlated non-negative random variables. We analyze two methods for proving the bound, a constructive approach, which produces a worst-case instance, and a reductive approach, which characterizes a certain submartingale arising from the reward process of our online algorithm. We apply this new prophet inequality to the design of algorithms for a class of two-sided bipartite matching problems that underlie online task assignment problems. In these problems, demand units of various types arrive randomly and sequentially over time according to some stochastic process. Tasks, or supply units, arrive according to another stochastic process. Each demand unit must be irrevocably matched to a supply unit or rejected. The match earns a reward that depends on the pair. The objective is to maximize the total expected reward over the planning horizon. The problem arises in mobile crowd-sensing and crowd sourcing contexts, where workers and tasks must be matched by a platform according to various criteria. We derive the first online algorithms with worst-case performance guarantees for our class of two-sided bipartite matching problems.

Short Biography

Van-Anh Truong is an Associate Professor at Columbia University.

Fuqua School of Business