Title page for ETD etd-09042008-143948

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Tonsing, Christoph Erik
URN etd-09042008-143948
Document Title Energy-efficient MAC protocol for wireless sensor networks
Degree MEng
Department Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering
Advisor Name Title
Prof G P Hancke Supervisor
  • energy efficient
  • preamble sampling
  • clock drift
  • synchronization.
  • wireless sensor networks
  • medium access control
Date 2008-04-09
Availability restricted

A Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) is a collection of tiny devices called sensor nodes which are deployed in an area to be monitored. Each node has one or more sensors with which they can measure the characteristics of their surroundings. In a typical WSN, the data gathered by each node is sent wirelessly through the network from one node to the next towards a central base station.

Each node typically has a very limited energy supply. Therefore, in order for WSNs to have acceptable lifetimes, energy efficiency is a design goal that is of utmost importance and must be kept in mind at all levels of a WSN system. The main consumer of energy on a node is the wireless transceiver and therefore, the communications that occur between nodes should be carefully controlled so as not to waste energy. The Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol is directly in charge of managing the transceiver of a node. It determines when the transceiver is on/off and synchronizes the data exchanges among neighbouring nodes so as to prevent collisions etc., enabling useful communications to occur. The MAC protocol thus has a big impact on the overall energy efficiency of a node.

Many WSN MAC protocols have been proposed in the literature but it was found that most were not optimized for the group of WSNs displaying very low volumes of traffic in the network. In low traffic WSNs, a major problem faced in the communications process is clock drift, which causes nodes to become unsynchronized. The MAC protocol must overcome this and other problems while expending as little energy as possible. Many useful WSN applications show low traffic characteristics and thus a new MAC protocol was developed which is aimed at this category of WSNs.

The new protocol, Dynamic Preamble Sampling MAC (DPS-MAC) builds on the family of preamble sampling protocols which were found to be most suitable for low traffic WSNs. In contrast to the most energy efficient existing preamble sampling protocols, DPS-MAC does not cater for the worst case clock drift that can occur between two nodes. Rather, it dynamically learns the actual clock drift experienced between any two nodes and then adjusts its operation accordingly.

By simulation it was shown that DPS-MAC requires less protocol overhead during the communication process and thus performs more energy efficiently than its predecessors under various network operating conditions. Furthermore, DPS-MAC is less prone to become overloaded or unstable in conditions of high traffic load and high contention levels respectively. These improvements cause the use of DPS-MAC to lead to longer node and network lifetimes, thus making low traffic WSNs more feasible.

University of Pretoria 2008

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