Medium Access Control Protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks: Design Space, Challenges, and Future Directions

Medium Access Control Protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks: Design Space, Challenges, and Future Directions

Pardeep Kumar (Free University Berlin, Germany) and Mesut Gunes (Free University Berlin, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2919-6.ch043
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This chapter provides an overall understanding of the design aspects of Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs). A WSN MAC protocol shares the wireless broadcast medium among sensor nodes and creates a basic network infrastructure for them to communicate with each other. The MAC protocol also has a direct influence on the network lifetime of WSNs as it controls the activities of the radio, which is the most power-consuming component of resource-scarce sensor nodes. In this chapter, the authors first discuss the basics of MAC design for WSNs and present a set of important MAC attributes. Subsequently, authors discuss the main categories of MAC protocols proposed for WSNs and highlight their strong and weak points. After briefly outlining different MAC protocols falling in each category, the authors provide a substantial comparison of these protocols for several parameters. Lastly, the chapter discusses future research directions on open issues in this field that have mostly been overlooked.
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The pervasiveness, self-autonomy, and self-organization of low-cost, low-power, and long-lived WSNs (Karl & Willig, 2006; Ilyas & Mahgoub, 2006; Li X. Y., 2008; Misra, Woungang, & Misra, 2009; Sohraby, Minoli, & Znati, 2007; Tubaishat & Madria, 2003; Akyildiz & Varun, 2010) have brought a new perspective to the world of wireless communication. This domain is destined to play a vital role to our future ubiquitous world as it extends the reach of cyberspace into physical and biological systems. Coupled with sensing, computation, and communication into a single tiny device, WSNs are emerging as an ideal candidate for several daily-life applications, particularly in monitoring and controlling domains. Demands placed on these networks are expending exponentially with the increase in their dimensions. The development of new hardware, software, and communication technology, and continuous refinements of current approaches is also pushing this domain even further. Besides the development of new algorithms and protocols, many commercial hardware vendors are also engaged designing novel and efficient architectures for sensor nodes1. Figure 1 shows some of the sensor nodes used for deployment, experiment, and evaluation of different WSN related applications, whereas Table 1 gives hardware details in terms of microcontroller, radio chip, and memory available to these platforms.

Figure 1.

Some of the common sensor platforms used by industrial and research organizations for several WSN related applications and testbed implementations. They differ from each other in processing, storage, and communication capabilities and are suitable for an application or the other.

Table 1.
Detailed hardware specifications of the WSN platforms shown in Figure 1
Tmote SkyMSB-A2Imote-2
     - Speed
8 MHz
Upto 72 MHz
PXA271 XScale
13 – 416 MHz
     - Frequency
     - Data Rate
     - RX Current
     - TX Current
     - Modulation
     - Output Power
Chipcon CC2420
2.4 GHz
250 kbps
18.8 mA
17.4 mA
+0 dBm
Chipcon CC1100
315/433/868/915 MHz
upto 500 kbps
15.6 mA
28.8 mA
+10 dBm
Chipcon CC2420
2.4 GHz
250 kbps
18.8 mA
17.4 mA
+0 dBm
     - RAM
     - Flash
10 KB
48 KB
98 KB
512 KB
32 MB
32 MB

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