This part of the documentation has not been touched for a while. It might be incomplete, reference deprecated functions or make a claim that does not apply to the latest version of PICOS any more. On the bright side, code listings are validated and still work. Watch your step!

More Constraints

This section introduces additional expression and constraint types that didn’t fit into the tutorial. Again, let us import PICOS:

>>> import picos as pic

We replicate some of the variables and data used in the tutorial:

>>> from picos import Constant, RealVariable
>>> t = RealVariable("t")
>>> x = RealVariable("x", 4)
>>> Y = RealVariable("Y", (2, 4))
>>> alpha = Constant("α", 23)
>>> A = [Constant("A[{}]".format(i), range(i, i + 8), (2, 4)) for i in range(5)]

This time, Z and b are lists:

>>> Z = [RealVariable("Z[{0}]".format(i), (4,2)) for i in range(5)]
>>> b = ([0, 2, 0, 3], [1, 1, 0, 5], [-1, 0, 2, 4], [0, 0, -2, -1],
...      [1, 1, 0, 0])
>>> b = [Constant("b[{}]".format(i), b[i]) for i in range(len(b))]

Graph Flow Constraints

Flow constraints in graphs are entered using a Networkx graph. The following example finds a (trivial) maximal flow from 'S' to 'T' in G.

>>> import networkx as nx
>>> G = nx.DiGraph()
>>> G.add_edge('S','A', capacity=1)
>>> G.add_edge('A','B', capacity=1)
>>> G.add_edge('B','T', capacity=1)
>>> pb = pic.Problem()
>>> # Adding the flow variables
>>> f={}
>>> for e in G.edges():
...     f[e]=pb.add_variable('f[{},{}]'.format(e[0], e[1]), 1)
>>> # A variable for the value of the flow
>>> F = pb.add_variable('F',1)
>>> # Creating the flow constraint
>>> flowCons = pb.add_constraint(pic.flow_Constraint(
...     G, f, 'S', 'T', F, capacity='capacity', graphName='G'))
>>> pb.set_objective('max',F)
>>> sol = pb.solve(solver='cvxopt')
>>> flow = {key: var.value for key, var in f.items()}

Picos allows you to define single source - multiple sinks problems. You can use the same syntax as for a single source - single sink problems. Just add a list of sinks and a list of flows instead.

import picos as pic
import networkx as nx

G.add_edge('S','A', capacity=2); G.add_edge('S','B', capacity=2)
G.add_edge('A','T1', capacity=2); G.add_edge('B','T2', capacity=2)

# Flow variable
for e in G.edges():
    f[e]=pbMultipleSinks.add_variable('f[{},{}]'.format(e[0], e[1]), 1)

# Flow value

flowCons = pic.flow_Constraint(
    G, f, source='S', sink=['T1','T2'], capacity='capacity',
    flow_value=[F1, F2], graphName='G')


# Solve the problem

print('The optimal flow F1 has value {:.1f}'.format(F1.value))
print('The optimal flow F2 has value {:.1f}'.format(F2.value))
Linear Program
  maximize F1 + F2
    1×1 real variable F1, F2, f[A,T1], f[B,T2], f[S,A], f[S,B]
  subject to
    Feasible S-(T1,T2)-flow in G has values F1, F2.
The optimal flow F1 has value 2.0
The optimal flow F2 has value 2.0

A similar syntax can be used for multiple sources-single sink flows.

Second Order Cone Constraints


This section in particular is outdated: The only direct way to create rotated second order cone constraints is now via the rsoc set-generating function. If you input such a constraint as below, then you will receive either a convex or a conic quadratic constraint. The former is handled depending on the solver used. The latter will be transformed either to a rotated conic constraint (which implicitly adds additional constraints that are part of the rotated second order cone definition) or it will remain nonconvex quadratic, depending on an option.

There are two types of second order cone constraints supported in PICOS.

  • The constraints of the type \Vert x \Vert \leq t, where t is a scalar affine expression and x is a multidimensional affine expression (possibly a matrix, in which case the norm is Frobenius). This inequality forces the vector [t; x] to belong to a Lorrentz-Cone (also called ice-cream cone).

  • The constraints of the type \Vert x \Vert^2 \leq t u,\ t \geq 0, where t and u are scalar affine expressions and x is a multidimensional affine expression, which constrain the vector [t; u; x] inside a rotated version of the Lorretz cone.

A few examples:

>>> # A simple ice-cream cone constraint
>>> abs(x) < (2|x-1)
<5×1 SOC Constraint: ‖x‖ ≤ ⟨[2], x - [1]⟩>
>>> # SOC constraint with Frobenius norm
>>> abs(Y+Z[0].T) < t+alpha
<9×1 SOC Constraint: ‖Y + Z[0]ᵀ‖ ≤ t + α>
>>> # Rotated SOC constraint
>>> abs(Z[1][:,0])**2 < (2*t-alpha)*(x[2]-x[-1])
<Conic Quadratic Constraint: ‖Z[1][:,0]‖² ≤ (2·t - α)·(x[2] - x[-1])>
>>> # t**2 is understood as the squared norm of [t]
>>> t**2 < alpha + t
<Convex Quadratic Constraint: t² ≤ α + t>
>>> # 1 is understood as the squared norm of [1]
>>> 1 < (t-1)*(x[2]+x[3])
<Conic Quadratic Constraint: (t - 1)·(x[2] + x[3]) ≥ 1>

Semidefinite Constraints

Linear matrix inequalities (LMI) can be entered thanks to an overload of the operators << and >>. For example, the LMI

    \sum_{i=0}^3 x_i b_i b_i^T \succeq b_4 b_4^T,

where \succeq is used to denote the Löwner ordering, is passed to PICOS by writing:

>>> pic.sum([x[i]*b[i]*b[i].T for i in range(4)]) >> b[4]*b[4].T
<4×4 LMI Constraint: ∑(x[i]·b[i]·b[i]ᵀ : i ∈ [0…3]) ≽ b[4]·b[4]ᵀ>

Note the difference with

>>> pic.sum([x[i]*b[i]*b[i].T for i in range(4)]) > b[4]*b[4].T
<4×4 Affine Constraint: ∑(x[i]·b[i]·b[i]ᵀ : i ∈ [0…3]) ≥ b[4]·b[4]ᵀ>

which yields an elementwise inequality.

For convenience, it is possible to add a symmetric matrix variable X, by specifying the option vtype=symmetric. This has the effect to store all the affine expressions which depend on X as a function of its lower triangular elements only.

>>> sdp = pic.Problem()
>>> X = sdp.add_variable('X',(4,4),vtype='symmetric')
>>> C = sdp.add_constraint(X >> 0)
>>> print(sdp)   
Feasibility Problem
  find an assignment
    4×4 symmetric variable X
  subject to
    X ≽ 0

In this example, you see indeed that the problem has 10=(4*5)/2 variables, which correspond to the lower triangular elements of X.


When a constraint of the form A >> B is passed to PICOS, it is not enforced that A - B is symmetric. How the constraint is passed then depends on the solver, for instance it could be that the lower or upper triangular part is ignored. You can add a constraint of the form A - B == (A - B).T to enforce symmetry.

Inequalities involving geometric means

It is possible to enter an inequality of the form

t \leq \prod_{i=1}^n x_i^{1/n}

in PICOS, where t is a scalar affine expression and x is an affine expression of dimension n (possibly a matrix, in which case x_i is counted in column major order). This inequality is internally converted to an equivalent set of second order cone inequalities, by using standard techniques (cf. e.g. [1]).

Many convex constraints can be formulated using inequalities that involve a geometric mean. For example, t \leq x_1^{2/3} is equivalent to t \leq t^{1/4} x_1^{1/4} x_1^{1/4}, which can be entered in PICOS thanks to the function geomean:

>>> t < pic.geomean(t //x[1] //x[1] //1)
<Geometric Mean Constraint: geomean([t; x[1]; x[1]; 1]) ≥ t>

Note that the latter example can also be passed to PICOS in a more simple way, thanks to an overloading of the ** exponentiation operator:

>>> t < x[1]**(2./3)
<Power Constraint: x[1]^(2/3) ≥ t>

Such a power constraint will be reformulated as a geometric mean inequality when the problem is solved, which in turn will be translated to conic inequalities.

Inequalities involving real powers or trace of matrix powers

As mentionned above, the ** exponentiation operator has been overloaded to support real exponents. A rational approximation of the exponent is used, and the inequality are internally reformulated as a set of equivalent SOC inequalities. Note that only inequalities defining a convex regions can be passed:

>>> t**0.6666 > x[0]
<Power Constraint: t^(2/3) ≥ x[0]>
>>> t**-0.5 < x[0]
<Power Constraint: t^(-1/2) ≤ x[0]>
>>> t**-0.5 > x[0]
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: Cannot lower-bound a nonconcave (trace of) power.

More generally, inequalities involving trace of matrix powers can be passed to PICOS, by using the tracepow function. The following example creates the constraint

\operatorname{trace}\ \big(x_0 A_0 A_0^T + x_2 A_2 A_2^T\big)^{2.5} \leq 3.

>>> pic.tracepow(x[0] * A[0]*A[0].T + x[2] * A[2]*A[2].T, 2.5) <= 3
<Trace of Power Constraint: tr((x[0]·A[0]·A[0]ᵀ + x[2]·A[2]·A[2]ᵀ)^(5/2)) ≤ 3>


when a power expression x^p (resp. the trace of matrix power \operatorname{trace}\ X^p ) is used, the base x is forced to be nonnegative (resp. the base X is forced to be positive semidefinite) by picos.

When the exponent is 0<p<1, it is also possible to represent constraints of the form \operatorname{trace}(M X^p) \geq t with SDPs, where M\succeq 0, see [2].

>>> pic.tracepow(X, 0.6666, coef = A[0].T*A[0]+"I") >= t
<Trace of Scaled Power Constraint: tr((A[0]ᵀ·A[0] + I)·X^(2/3)) ≥ t>

As for geometric means, inequalities involving real powers yield their internal representation via the constraints and variables attributes.

Inequalities involving generalized p-norm

Inequalities of the form \Vert x \Vert_p \leq t can be entered by using the function norm. This function is also defined for p < 1 by the usual formula \Vert x \Vert_p :=  \Big(\sum_i |x_i|^p \Big)^{1/p}. The norm function is convex over \mathbb{R}^n for all p\geq 1, and concave over the set of vectors with nonnegative coordinates for p \leq 1.

>>> pic.norm(x,3) < t
<Vector p-Norm Constraint: ‖x‖_3 ≤ t>
>>> pic.norm(x,'inf') < 2
<Maximum Norm Constraint: ‖x‖_max ≤ 2>
>>> pic.norm(x,0.5) > x[0]-x[1]
<Generalized p-Norm Constraint: ‖x‖_(1/2) ≥ x[0] - x[1] ∧ x ≥ 0>


Note that when a constraint of the form norm(x,p) >= t is entered (with p \leq 1 ), PICOS forces the vector x to be nonnegative (componentwise).

Inequalities involving the generalized L_{p,q} norm of a matrix can also be handled with picos, cf. the documentation of norm .

As for geometric means, inequalities involving p-norms yield their internal representation via the constraints and variables attributes.

Inequalities involving the nth root of a determinant

The function detrootn can be used to enter the n-th root of the determinant of a (n \times n)-symmetric positive semidefinite matrix:

>>> M = sdp.add_variable('M',(5,5),'symmetric')
>>> t < pic.detrootn(M)
<n-th Root of a Determinant Constraint: det(M)^(1/5) ≥ t>


Note that when a constraint of the form t < pic.detrootn(M) is entered (with p \leq 1), PICOS forces the matrix M to be positive semidefinite.

As for geometric means, inequalities involving the nth root of a determinant yield their internal representation via the constraints and variables attributes.

Set membership

Since Picos 1.0.2, there is a Set class that can be used to pass constraints as membership of an affine expression to a set.

Following sets are currently supported:

  • L_p- balls representing the set \{x: \Vert x \Vert_p \leq r\} can be constructed with the function ball

  • The standard simplex (scaled by a factor \gamma) \{x \geq 0: \sum_i x_i \leq r \} can be constructed with the function simplex

  • Truncated simplexes \{0 \leq x \leq 1: \sum_i x_i \leq r \} and symmetrized Truncated simplexes \{x: \Vert x \Vert_\infty \leq 1, \Vert x \Vert_1\leq r \} can be constructed with the function truncated_simplex

Membership of an affine expression to a set can be expressed with the overloaded operator <<. This returns a temporary object that can be passed to a picos problem with the function add_constraint.

>>> x << pic.simplex(1)
<Unit Simplex Constraint: x ∈ {x ≥ 0 : ∑(x) ≤ 1}>
>>> x << pic.truncated_simplex(2)
<Box-Truncated Simplex Constraint: x ∈ {0 ≤ x ≤ 1 : ∑(x) ≤ 2}>
>>> x << pic.truncated_simplex(2,sym=True)
<Box-Truncated 1-norm Ball Constraint: x ∈ {-1 ≤ x ≤ 1 : ∑(|x|) ≤ 2}>
>>> x << pic.ball(3)
<5×1 SOC Constraint: ‖x‖ ≤ 3>
>>> pic.ball(2,'inf') >> x
<Maximum Norm Constraint: ‖x‖_max ≤ 2>
>>> x << pic.ball(4,1.5)
<Vector p-Norm Constraint: ‖x‖_(3/2) ≤ 4>


  1. Applications of second-order cone programming”, M.S. Lobo, L. Vandenberghe, S. Boyd and H. Lebret, Linear Algebra and its Applications, 284, p. 193-228, 1998.

  2. On the semidefinite representations of real functions applied to symmetric matrices” , G. Sagnol, Linear Algebra and its Applications, 439(10), p. 2829-2843, 2013.