Recent development has lead to the emergence of distributed Wireless Sensor and Actor Networks (WSAN), which are capable of observing the physical environment, processing the data, making decisions based on the observations and performing appropriate actions. WSANs represent an important extension of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) and may comprise a large number of sensor nodes and a smaller number of actor nodes. The sensor nodes are low-cost, low energy, battery powered devices with restricted sensing, computational and wireless communication capabilities. Actor nodes are resource richer with superior processing capabilities, higher transmission powers and a longer battery life. A basic operational scenario of a typical WSAN application follows the following sequence of events. The physical environment is periodically sensed and evaluated by the sensor nodes. The sensed data is then routed towards an actor node. Upon receiving sensed data, an actor node performs an action upon the physical environment if necessary, i.e. if the occurrence of a disturbance or critical event has been detected. The specific characteristics of sensor and actor nodes combined with some stringent application constraints impose unique requirements for WSANs. The fundamental challenges for WSANs are to achieve low latency, high energy efficiency and high reliability. The latency and energy efficiency requirements are in a trade-off relationship. The communication and coordination inside WSANs is managed via a Communication Protocol Stack (CPS) situated on every node. The requirements of low latency and energy efficiency have to be addressed at every layer of the CPS to ensure overall feasibility of the WSAN. Therefore, careful design of protocol layers in the CPS is crucial in attempting to meet the unique requirements and handle the abovementioned trade-off relationship in WSANs. The traditional CPS, comprising the application, network, medium access control and physical layer, is a layered protocol stack with every layer, a predefined functional entity. However, it has been found that for similar types of networks with similar stringent network requirements, the strictly layered protocol stack approach performs at a sub-optimal level with regards to network efficiency. A modern cross-layer paradigm, which proposes the employment of interactions between layers in the CPS, has recently attracted a lot of attention. The cross-layer approach promotes network efficiency optimization and promises considerable performance gains. It is found that in literature, the adoption of this cross-layer paradigm has not yet been considered for WSANs. In this dissertation, a complete cross-layer enabled WSAN CPS is developed that features the adoption of the cross-layer paradigm towards promoting optimization of the network efficiency. The newly proposed cross-layer enabled CPS entails protocols that incorporate information from other layers into their local decisions. Every protocol layer provides information identified as beneficial to another layer(s) in the CPS via a newly proposed Simple Cross-Layer Framework (SCLF) for WSANs. The proposed complete cross-layer enabled WSAN CPS comprises a Cross-Layer enabled Network-Centric Actuation Control with Data Prioritization (CL-NCAC-DP) application layer (APPL) protocol, a Cross-Layer enabled Cluster-based Hierarchical Energy/Latency-Aware Geographic Routing (CL-CHELAGR) network layer (NETL) protocol and a Cross-Layer enabled Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Minimum Preamble Sampling and Duty Cycle Doubling (CL-CSMA-MPS-DCD) medium access control layer (MACL) protocol. Each of these protocols builds on an existing simple layered protocol that was chosen as a basis for development of the cross-layer enabled protocols. It was found that existing protocols focus primarily on energy efficiency to ensure maximum network lifetime. However, most WSAN applications require latency minimization to be considered with the same importance. The cross-layer paradigm provides means of facilitating the optimization of both latency and energy efficiency. Specifically, a solution to the latency versus energy trade-off is given in this dissertation. The data generated by sensor nodes is prioritised by the APPL and depending on the delay-sensitivity, handled in a specialised manor by every layer of the CPS. Delay-sensitive data packets are handled in order to achieve minimum latency. On the other hand, delay-insensitive non critical data packets are handled in such a way as to achieve the highest energy efficiency. In effect, either latency minimization or energy efficiency receives an elevated precedence according to the type of data that is to be handled. Specifically, the cross-layer enabled APPL protocol provides information pertaining to the delay-sensitivity of sensed data packets to the other layers. Consequently, when a data packet is detected as highly delay-sensitive, the cross-layer enabled NETL protocol changes its approach from energy efficient routing along the maximum residual energy path to routing along the fastest path towards the cluster-head actor node for latency minimizing of the specific packet. This is done by considering information (contained in the SCLF neighbourhood table) from the MACL that entails wakeup schedules and channel utilization at neighbour nodes. Among the added criteria, the next-hop node is primarily chosen based on the shortest time to wakeup. The cross-layer enabled MACL in turn employs a priority queue and a temporary duty cycle doubling feature to enable rapid relaying of delay-sensitive data. Duty cycle doubling is employed whenever a sensor node’s APPL state indicates that it is part of a critical event reporting route. When the APPL protocol state (found in the SCLF information pool) indicates that the node is not part of the critical event reporting route anymore, the MACL reverts back to promoting energy efficiency by disengaging duty cycle doubling and re-employing a combination of a very low duty cycle and preamble sampling. The APPL protocol conversely considers the current queue size of the MACL and temporarily halts the creation of data packets (only if the sensed value is non critical) to prevent a queue overflow and ease congestion at the MACL By simulation it was shown that the cross-layer enabled WSAN CPS consistently outperforms the layered CPS for various network conditions. The average end-to-end latency of delay-sensitive critical data packets is decreased substantially. Furthermore, the average end-to-end latency of delay-insensitive data packets is also decreased. Finally, the energy efficiency performance is decreased by a tolerable insignificant minor margin as expected. The trivial increase in energy consumption is overshadowed by the high margin of increase in latency performance for delay-sensitive critical data packets. The newly proposed cross-layer CPS achieves an immense latency performance increase for WSANs, while maintaining excellent energy efficiency. It has hence been shown that the adoption of the cross-layer paradigm by the WSAN CPS proves hugely beneficial with regards to the network efficiency performance. This increases the feasibility of WSANs and promotes its application in more areas.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2009.