12:45PM, Thursday, December 14th 2006.
Gates 104

Simplicity through Visibility: A Network Architecture for Wireless Sensor Networks

Philip Levis
Stanford University

About the talk:
After nearly ten years of research, industrial development, and successful deployments, deploying wireless sensor networks remains difficult and labor-intensive. Co-opting the terminology of Fred Brooks, we believe that this encountered complexity is more than an artifact of dealing with a novel technology: it is an essential consideration that will not go away. In practice, distributed algorithms, limited state, energy, and low-power local communication make it difficult to observe or understand the internal operation of a network. This challenge has led to a variety of management and debugging systems to feed internal data to an administrator.

In this talk, we propose a different approach. Instead of adding visibility layers on top of an obfuscated system, we ask the question: "Can we design a network architecture to improve the visibility of its internal decisions?" We define a quantitative measure for visibility, and outline several research problems the goal of visibility introduces, such as protocol isolation and distributed fairness. We describe two functional components of our prototype of such an architecture: the fair waiting protocol (FWP), and the collection tree protocol (CTP). We discuss possible protocol stack layers and their responsibilities. We conclude with a discussion of challenges ahead.


About the speaker:
Phil Levis is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Departments of Stanford University. He researches embedded wireless networks, including programming languages, operating systems, network protocols, algorithms and applications.