Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2014
Overview and goals
Small low-cost devices powered with wireless communication technologies along with the sensing capabilities are instrumental in the inception of wireless sensor networks (WSNs). Recent years have witnessed a sharp growth in research in the area of WSNs. The characteristics of such distributed networks of sensors are that they have the potential for use in various applications in both the civilian and military fields. Enemy intrusion detection in the battlefield, object tracking, habitat monitoring, patient monitoring, and fire detection are some of the numerous potential applications of sensor networks. The ability of an infrastructure-less network setup with minimal reliance on network planning, and the ability of the deployed nodes to self-organize and self-configure without the association of any centralized control are the smart features of these networks. Leveraging the advantages of these features, the network setup is swift in challenging scenarios such as emergency, rescue, or relief operations. The smart features also enable continuous operation of the network without any intervention in case of any failure.
Along with the above-mentioned attractive features possessed by sensor networks, there are several challenges which hinder hassle-free, autonomous, and involuntary operation of these networks. Some of the challenges are attributed to issues relating to scalability, quality-of-service (QoS), energy efficiency, and security. The protocols should be light-weight enough to be suitable for these networks, which consist of small-sized sensor nodes with limited computation power. Sensor networks are often deployed in large-scale and are expected to function through years. Clearly, battery power is an issue in such cases, and can be achieved with the help of energy-efficient or energy-aware protocols. Finally, QoS is also an issue for applications which demand prompt responses.