José Cecílio, João Costa, Pedro Martins and Pedro Furtado
University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
Keywords: Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN), Data Processing, Alarm delivery guarantees.
Abstract: We are witnessing a large increase of Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) deployments, used to sense, monitor
and act on the environment, because cable-free solutions are easier to deploy. However, in industrial
applications, WSNs still aren’t seen as a viable option because of the required fast sampling rates and the
reduced time delay, particularly in a multi-hop deployment where traffic congestion may occur. Message
losses are unacceptable, particularly in what concerns critical messages containing actuation instructions or
other urgent data, which may have time-constraint requirements that cannot be guaranteed. Our research
focuses on integrating traffic-aware data processing strategies and network traffic prioritization to overcome
congestion states, in order to guarantee that urgent alarms and commands are enacted in time. Traffic is
divided into urgent messages (alarms and actuation commands), that have time-delivery requirements; and
the remaining periodic sensed data. In this paper we propose an integrated approach NetDP, which applies
adaptable data processing strategies (DP) and traffic reduction (DP-Manager) policies to ensure that
application requirements are satisfied with minimal message losses, while simultaneously guaranteeing
timely delivery of alarms. We demonstrate that NETDP solution with different data processing strategies
and levels of system stress can efficiently guarantee the timely delivery of alarms and actuation messages.
Sensor network applications are mostly data-driven,
and are deployed to monitor, understand and to act
upon the physical world. The potential of Wireless
Sensor Network (WSN) technology has been clearly
demonstrated, and this has led to increasing
research, in both academia and industry, concerning
design and implementation methods to efficiently
operate wireless sensor networks. A very important
issue is how to offer a high degree of reliability in
critical systems, since sensor networks have several
limitations concerning energy, interference, signal
strength, congestion and timing limitations.
Our research was done in the context of FP7
European project GINSENG (Ginseng, 2010), which
aims to plan and develop a performance controlled
WSN to apply in critical scenarios. The overall goal
of GINSENG is to ensure that wireless sensor
networks meet application-specic performance
targets and that will integrate with industry resource
managements systems. The project application
scenarios include the Petrogal oil refinery, located at
Sines, Portugal.
We have created a twin lab testbed setup to test
solutions for the refinery testbed before deploying
them. This is an important step, since the refinery
plant zone is an ATEX security area, where only
certified personnel is allowed and ATEX compliant,
sealed equipment can be deployed. By mirroring the
actual deployment in our lab, we are able to test
alternative solutions, and to deploy only the final
choices in the actual refinery locations.
In such industrial scenarios, where wireless
sensor networks with tens or hundreds of nodes are
programmed to sense and react within tens of
milliseconds range, in conjunction with high data
rates and complex multi-hop network layouts, high
message loss ratios may result. If 50% to 70% of
application-level messages are lost, it’s almost
impossible to guarantee the timely delivery of urgent
messages and commands.
In this paper we propose NetDP, which is an
approach designed to provide the necessary means to
configure, test and handle high-rate sensor data
Cecílio J., Costa J., Martins P. and Furtado P..
DOI: 10.5220/0003357904270433
In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Pervasive and Embedded Computing and Communication Systems (PECCS-2011), pages
ISBN: 978-989-8425-48-5
2011 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
using in-network approaches. After a user makes an
initial deployment plan and programs the nodes with
the NetDP software, he deploys the nodes and uses
our tool to test whether the system is functioning
well. If the system is not responding adequately due
to excess traffic, the user makes changes to the way
information is processed using a set of alternatives
that are provided by NetDP.
Application-level messages can be divided into
Urgent messages, which need delivery guarantees
and time-delivery constraints (e.g. alarms triggered
by sensors nodes and actuation commands to motes),
and Periodic sensor data that should be delivered
according to user specified and application
requirements. Periodic data transmission rates
should be set to a level that allows the timely
delivery of urgent messages, while complying with
the application requirements. We provide
mechanisms to measure and test the network,
offering users some valuable feedback to help them
to adjust system configuration parameters to
acceptable boundaries.
The proposed approach consists of three main
modules: a Data Processing module (DP) that
implements different data processing algorithms, a
Network Status module (NS) which gathers and
produces network status information and a DP-
Manager module that allows users to adjust data
processing configuration parameters to tune the
overall system.
The paper is organized as follows: section 2
discusses related work; section 3 presents our
integrated in-network and data processing solution,
including network status measures and implemented
data processing solutions; in section 4 we analyze
experimental results and section 5 concludes the
Our proposal is an integrated approach for providing
both guarantees to urgent messages and reliable data
collection, through the use of monitoring and traffic-
intensity configurable data processing approaches
fitted at user needs. Related work includes monitor,
studies on packet lost and in-network data
Monitoring tools are crucial to measure network-
specific parameters and to control the performance
of a wireless sensors network. Monitoring tools such
as Sympathy (Ramanathan et al., 2005), Sensor
Network Management System (SNMS) (Tolle &
Culler, 2005), Sensor Network Inspection
Framework (SNIF) (Ringwald & Römer, 2007) and
Distributed Node Monitoring in Wireless Sensor
Networks (DiMo) (Meier et al., 2008), can monitor
necessary parameters to ensure that all
functionalities are working as expected. Our work is
related to these ones in what concerns monitoring,
and their failure detection mechanisms can be
integrated into our system to enhance the detected
failure conditions. However, our monitoring
component includes additional application-level,
end-to-end message lost and message delivery tests.
To avoid congestion, we include in our
prototype in-network data processing mechanisms.
Some previous studies, such as (Jianbo et al., 2006)
and (
Wu & Tian, 2006) have shown that computing
in-network significantly reduces the amount of
communication and the energy consumed. We also
use in-network data processing approaches to
decrease the required amount of communication.
These approaches are integrated in our system
together with delivery guarantees of urgent
messages, monitoring and configuration to reduce
network traffic to acceptable levels.
Our approach addresses the impact of excess
traffic from empirical results collected on a real
deployed wireless sensor network with contention
based protocols. These results were important for
evaluating the delivery guarantees of urgent
messages, and alternative data processing and
configuration mechanisms provided to bring the
traffic intensity to acceptable levels.
NetDP is an approach designed to provide the
necessary means to configure, test and handle high-
rate sensor data using in-network approaches.
The system is divided into two major entities: a
Manager application running in a workstation, which
controls and manages WSN nodes actions, and an
Executor application running at sensor and relay
nodes, which processes and sends data, receives and
performs actuation commands.
The Manager application includes a Data
Processing Manager (DPmanager) and a Network
Status Manager (NSmanager); Executors include a
Data Processing Module (DPmodule) and a Network
Status Module (NSmodule), as illustrated in figure 1.
Each of these modules have a set of configurable
parameters that can be adjusted by issuing
PECCS 2011 - International Conference on Pervasive and Embedded Computing and Communication Systems
configuration commands to nodes (sensors and
relays) with end-to-end acknowledge requirements,
to activate different data processing strategies, run
network status tests, or change just some of the
existing configuration parameters.
Figure 1: NetDP Modules.
The DPmanager sends reliable configuration
commands to sensors and relays, and manages
client-side data processing. When reliable
commands are sent, consecutive retries may be tried
until an acknowledgement (or a failure timeout) has
been received. The Executor, when receiving a
configuration command, forwards it to the executor
DP module for processing and configuring the
instructed DP parameters. Upon completion, the
executor sends an acknowledgement message
confirming the reception and the execution of the
requested command.
The NSmanager sends network status related
requests and gathers network status information
from executors, in order to compute valuable
network statistics indicators. The executors
NSmodule gathers and sends the network status
information to the NS Manager.
In the next subsections we discuss
(re)configuration, application-level network status
measures and tests, and we present data processing
strategies and their configuration parameters.
3.1 (RE) Configuration
for Guaranteed Delivery
After network status tests, reconfiguration may be
necessary to guarantee that all information is
delivered or to improve the performance of the
system. The user can change configuration
parameters until the desired characteristics are
obtained. In order to do this, the reconfiguration
requires a set of configurations that should be used
in a successive test procedure, until the desired
characteristics are obtained.
During a test, reconfiguration module collects
information provided by network status, considering
metrics such as message/sample loss ratio, delays
and the number of failed acks. If any metric fails to
provide desired guarantees, it is necessary to
reconfigure the system. The users can change the
sampling rate, opt for other data processing
approach or change any parameter associated to the
data processing approaches that are summarized in
section 3.3.
3.2 Network Status Measures and Tests
Traffic-aware data processing approaches need to
use traffic-reduction configuration parameters to
avoid congestion and allow good network
performance characteristics. One key component is
to have a set of measures and tests that detect
network performance problems and application-level
message delivery tests are crucial. We define a set of
measures and tests that can be used and that allow
the user to conclude whether the network status is
satisfactory or, otherwise, if it is necessary to change
some configuration parameters and/or data
processing approach. Given a deployment, these
tests can be used to verify whether the traffic
characteristics are as desirable, or to test different
alternatives concerning data processing approaches
and/or traffic-related configurations, in order to
decide the most appropriate ones. We provide
alternative data processing approaches and
configuration parameters for traffic reduction. The
actual choice of a user should depend on application
context requirements and the results of these tests.
Our focus is on detecting excess traffic
conditions that lead to excessive application-level
message loss, so we assume link and node
connection. In practice, the Network Status module
also periodically tests connection between any node
and the sink and report disconnection.
In the rest of this section we will discuss the tests
used by our approaches to evaluate the network
Message Loss Ratio: The number or ratio of lost
messages is an important measure of network
performance, revealing problems that may be due to
disconnection or other outside factors of the
environment. In our approaches we use message loss
ratio as an indicator of excess traffic conditions.
Number of Retries for Guaranteed Delivery of
Messages: The number of retries is an application-
level test that is based on sending messages with ack
between sensor and sink node and between sink and
sensor node. A significant number of retries is
indicative of problems due to excess traffic intensity,
providing useful information to the user, who can
then conclude if it is necessary to change some
configuration that decreases traffic intensity.
End-to-end Delay: We measure the end-to-end
delay regarding a transmission of data messages.
The end-to-end delay implies the time taken between
messages is submitted by the source and when it is
successfully received at the destination, and it
accounts for the sum of all components of the delay,
including queuing and the propagation delay of each
3.3 Data Processing Approaches
The overall objective of the Data Processing part is
to provide flexibility for users to configure
collection of data values in a way that brings traffic
into acceptable levels to offer timely delivery
guarantees for alarms and commands with end-to-
end acknowledgement.
Different strategies have been studied concerning
ways to extract useful data from the network, and
provide a compact delivery of that information to the
user. We consider three common types of in-
network processing (aggregation, merging and
compression), besides the basic alternative of sense-
and-send. Each of these alternatives fits into
different application needs – for instance, a sense-
and-react system may require frequent detailed
sensor data, while another application may tolerate a
larger delay or accept statistically-summarized data
every 2 seconds. Next we present some of the data
processing strategies included in our system:
Synchronous Delivery of Sensed Data (SD-
SD): this is the basic approach, where sensors
periodically gather and send sensor data values to
sink without further processing. Users can only
adjust the sampling rate.
The next in-network processing alternatives trade
information loss with delay: instead of reducing the
sampling rate, they merge, aggregate or summarize
several values into statistical measures.
Aggregated Delivery of Sensed Data (AD-SD):
this approach aggregates continuous data readings
within the sensor node (or at intermediate nodes),
and sends the aggregated data to the sink. The user
can configure the maximum delivery delay, which
internally is translated into an adjustment in the size
of the underlying window used to store the sensor
values before computing the statistical information.
Merged Delivery of Sensed Data (MD-SD):
this approach exploits the fact that in the basic
approach most data packets could be stuffed with
much more data. Ensuring that data packets
accommodate multiple samples before being sending
the packet reduces the overall number of in-network
exchanged packets. For a maximum packet size we
concatenate several consecutive sensor values
together, while there is space available in the packet
and a time limit is not met, thus sending a single
packet instead of one packet per reading. Internally,
we store sensor values into an array and only send
them when the data packet is full. The configuration
parameter for this is the window size.
Compressed Delivery of Sensed Data (CD-
SD): this approach compresses the sensed data into
an array to decrease the transmission rate. We
selected run-length encoding (RLE) because
introduces only a very low compression overhead to
the nodes. RLE is used to compress sequences of
values containing repetitions of the same value. The
idea is to replace repeating values with just an
instance of the value and a counter that counts the
number of repetitions. Compressed data only needs
to be sent to the sink when the array fills up or a
maximum delay time is reached. Since very small
signal variations may be insignificant for most
applications, we also added quantization to RLE in
our system, which increases compression rates in
some sensitive sensors. Users may define a
quantization interval so that similar values, within
the boundaries of the quantization level, are
considered equal (lossy compression). For instance,
for a quantization level of 0.5, the measure values
23.1 and 23.2 are considered equal because they are
within the same quantization level.
The workstation has to decompress the data
messages to reconstruct the sensor values from the
compressed stream. CD significantly reduces
network traffic in scenarios with low variation of
sensor readings. The configuration parameters are:
the window size, the maximum delay and the
quantization levels.
The objective of this section is threefold: to
characterize and compare alternative data processing
approaches and configurations under different traffic
conditions, to show that network status information
given by the Network Status manager (NSManager)
tests is useful to assess the processing status; and to
show that excessive traffic intensity is promptly
characterized by the tests.
The setup consists of a multi-hop network, as
illustrated in figure 2, where the leaf nodes are set to
collect sensor data with different sampling rates, and
then to send these data values to a sink node,
following a multi-hop path.
PECCS 2011 - International Conference on Pervasive and Embedded Computing and Communication Systems
Intermediate nodes simply relay the data into
upper nodes. All nodes implement the DP strategies
(SD-SD, AD-SD, MD-SD, CD-SD), which are
activated when required or instructed through a
command instruction.
Figure 2: Node Hierarchy Diagram.
Nodes are telosB motes running Contiki 2.3
operating system with a uIPv6 stack over Contiki
Rime for network communication, using a maximum
packet size of 132 bits, with a 32 bits header.
Results presented below were obtained by
running 10 times the experimental setup with a
runtime of 30 minutes. In each run, sensor nodes are
continuously sending sensor data values to the sink
node at sampling rates of 50ms, 250ms, 500ms or
1s, while alarms and actuation commands were sent
with end-to-end acknowledge and messages retries
when necessary. Data items are processed using SD-
SD, AD-SD, MD-SD or CD-SD (in any part of the
path to the sink), and sent to the sink at moments
according to the data processing strategy.
The discussion is organized as follows: section
4.1 discusses the effects of reliable communication
applied to all messages in a high-rate setting. This
result motivates the reason why we chose guaranteed
delivery only to urgent messages; Section 4.2
compares measures considering different data
processing strategies using the X-MAC protocol,
and we analyze the differences between then.
4.1 Reliable Communication
We focused on only guaranteeing end-to-end
acknowledgement for urgent messages. A natural
question is why not just using reliable
communication for all messages instead? Figure 3
compares the message loss ratios at high-traffic rates
using two alternatives: a best-effort delivery
protocol (mesh), and a reliable version (reliable
multihop protocol), which requires
acknowledgement (ack) on each hop, with up to 5
retries. Results show a much higher message loss
ratio with the reliable protocol, due to a considerable
increase in packets resulting from retries and packet
drops. This was the major motivation for our dual
approach of guaranteed delivery of urgent messages
and best-effort delivery of the remaining sensor data.
Figure 3: Message loss ratio for SD approach with reliable
4.2 Network Status
and Data Processing
In this sub-section we used the Network Status test
tool to study how different data processing
configurations behave with traffic intensity.
Given an initial deployment, a user runs network
status tests to assess whether the configuration had
acceptable traffic intensity; if not, he changes some
data processing configuration parameter and retries,
or simply tries more than one configuration from the
start to evaluate which best fits his application
Message Loss Ratios: Figure 4 shows the
message loss ratios obtained versus sampling rate,
for varied processing strategies (SD-SD – direct
sense-and-send, AD-SD – aggregate and send with
window size 10, MD-SD – merge and send, with
window size 10, and CD-SD – compress and send).
Figure 4: Evaluation of message loss ratio versus sampling
SD-SD has a large loss ratio for sampling rates
below 250ms. The most basic SD-SD strategy
presents high message loss ratios as the sampling
rate increases. With 50 ms rate almost 43% of the
messages sent by sensor nodes are lost, and this
means that urgent messages will also have severe
difficulty to arrive and to receive an
acknowledgement, resulting in several retries.
The remaining approaches all reduce the
message loss ratio significantly when compared with
SD-SD. One interesting result is the enormous
improvement obtained over SD-SD just by merging
values and sending a single packet less frequently
(MD-SD), instead of multiple packets with just one
value (SD-SD). This means that, if some delay is
admissible, it pays to get several pieces of data
together and to send them less frequently than SD-
SD. Aggregation (AD-SD) results in the same
number but much smaller packets than MD-SD,
since MD-SD maintains full data in large packets,
while AD-SD summarizes the data into a small
Compression-based CD-SD presents the lowest
message loss ratios in the tested scenario, because it
generates the smallest number of messages.
Window Size: in some approaches, such as AD-
SD and MD-SD, the window size has an impact on
message loss ratios, since it will vary the number
and size of messages sent by the sensors. Figure 5
shows the influence of two different window sizes (5
and 10). An increase of the window size from 5 to
10 reduces to half the number of messages sent and
consequently congestion. The figure shows that the
window size had only a very moderate influence on
message loss ratio for aggregation (since there is
already no significant congestion), and a larger
influence for MD-SD.
Figure 5: Evaluation of message loss ratio versus window
Number of Retries: the best way to evaluate
whether urgent messages are deliverable in time is
using a test that sends such messages (with end-to-
end acknowledgement) while the system is in
operation. The “Number of retries” test of the
NSmanager module does exactly that. Table 1 shows
the results of the test for the tested scenario
(average, standard deviation and maximum number
of retries over ten rounds). For each approach, the
test measures the number of retransmissions that
were required by a node to deliver the message
correctly. The displayed results were obtained for a
5 seconds retry timeout (time between a node sends
the data and waits for the ack), and a maximum of
10 retries (retries repeat until an ack is received).
Low sampling rates (1 second) succeeded in sending
the messages without retires for any of the
approaches, while for sampling rates higher, SD-SD
becomes unreliable, with a much larger number of
retries than the remaining approaches.
Table 1: Number of retries required to deliver an urgent
message with ack.
rate [ms]
Avg Stdev Max Avg Stdev Max
50 5 3,72 10 1 1,21 3
250 3 2,1 5 0 0,52 1
500 1 0,41 1 0 0 0
1000 0 0 1 0 0 0
rate [ms]
Avg Stdev Max Avg Stdev Max
50 1 0,42 2 1 1,17 3
250 0 0,2 1 0 0,43 1
500 0 0 0 0 0,04 0
1000 0 0 0 0 0 0
In this paper we have described our experience with
studying data processing and network performance
evaluation solutions for high-rate data in the context
of an FP7 project – Ginseng, which aims at
developing performance controlled WSNs to apply
in critical scenarios. We have described the modules
that we have developed for the industrial setting and
our experimental data that tests both how variants of
network-level protocols react to data processing
needs, and how alternative data processing
approaches can help resolve the high-rate congestion
Ginseng (2010). The FP7 GINSENG project website.
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