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PicoRadio: Ad-hoc Wireless Networking of Ubiquitous Low-Energy Sensor/Monitor Nodes

J. Rabaey, J. Ammer, J. L. da Silva Jr., D. Patel University of California at Berkeley {jan,mjammer,julio,dpatel}

One of the most compelling challenges of the next decade is the solution of the "last meter" problem, which extends the network into the end-user data-collection and monitoring devices. This paper discusses the challenges and opportunities of a "PicoRadio Network" that supports the assembly of an ad-hoc wireless network of meso-scale, low-cost and low-energy sensor and monitor nodes.

1. Introduction
Technology advances have made it conceivable to build and deploy dense wireless networks of heterogeneous nodes collecting and disseminating wide ranges of data. Applications of such sensor and monitoring networks are ample: environmental control in office buildings, robot control and guidance in automatic manufacturing environments, warehouse inventory, interacting toys, the smart home and interactive museums are just a few that come immediately to mind. Crucial to the success of such ubiquitous networks (called "PicoRadio Networks" in the remainder of the text) is the availability of small, lightweight, and low-cost network elements, which we call “PicoNodes”. Nodes have to be smaller than 1cm3, weigh less than 100 g, and cost less than 1 $. Even more importantly, power dissipation of the nodes should be ultra-low to avoid frequent battery replacement. Dissipation levels below 500 µW are envisioned, as these would allow for the nodes to be self-powered using energy extracted from the environment (energy-scavenging). Reaching these aggressive power dissipation levels requires that the effective range of each PicoNode is limited to a couple of meters at most. Extending the reachable data range requires the formation of a scalable network infrastructure that allows distant nodes to communicate with each other. The deployment of such a network with many hundreds of nodes is non-trivial unless a self-configuring ad-hoc networking approach is adopted. How to reduce the power/energy dissipation of the PicoNode to these ultra-low levels is the focus of this

paper. The secret lies in a meticulous concern for energy reduction throughout the system design process. The largest opportunity is situated in the protocol stack, where a tradeoff between communication and computation, as well as elimination of overhead can lead to many orders of magnitude in energy reduction. Other opportunities lay in the adoption and introduction of novel self-optimizing radio architectures. To accomplishing these goals, we need both optimization methods and highly reconfigurable implementation platforms. This paper presents the optimization strategy for the PicoRadio Network (Section 2), and the architecture implementation strategy for a PicoNode (Section 3).

2. PicoRadio Network Optimization
The three main layers we concentrate on are the physical, media access control (MAC), and network layers. For two nodes to communicate, a physical link is created between two radios. The physical layer handles the communication across this physical link, which involves modulating data onto the medium in a way that can be demodulated by the intended receiver. Next, since many radios coexist in the same RF environment where messages can interfere with each other, access to the medium needs to be coordinated. The MAC layer provides this service. The network layer determines the path for a packet to take, when radios that are not within p hysical range of each other wish to communicate, through other nodes that forward packets on their behalf. This forwarding of packets is often referred to as multi-hop networking.

2.1. Energy Efficiency in Multi-hop Networks
An important motivation to use mult i-hop networks is energy-efficiency. Sending a bit of information through free space directly from node A to node B incurs an energy cost, β∗ dγ Where d is the distance between node . A and node B, γ 1 is the path -loss exponent (a factor that > depends on the RF environment, and is generally between 2 and 4 for indoor environments), and β is a

proportionality constant. Given this greater than linear relationship between energy and distance, it is more energy-efficient to send a bit using several short intermediate hops than using one longer hop, as long as the energy to compute the route is negligible. For instance, assuming γ and β fJ/m γ one hop over 50m requires =4 =.2 , 1.25 nJ/bit whereas, 5 hops of 10m require only 5x2 pJ/bit. The multi -hop approach in th is example reduces transmission energy by a factor of 125. In its simplest form, multi -hop network energy analysis argues for an infinite number of hops, each over the smallest possible distance. Obviously, the number of intermediate hops is limited by how many nodes lie between nodes A and B, but there are more factors to take into account. In a more realistic analysis, we include not just the energy sent over the airwaves, but also the energy dissipated in the radio for receiving the bit and readying the bit for retransmission. These costs describe the efficiency of the physical layer. Our new model is:
hops _ total γ Eb = α ( hops _ total ) + β di ∑ i =1 Where α is the cost of receiving and readying a bit for retransmission unrelated to the distance. Under ideal conditions of evenly spaced nodes,

Still, there are more factors to take into account. For every bit of data, there are overhead bits, such as the destination address, cyclic redundancy check (CRC), and framing information. Therefore, there are ε>1 bits sent for every actual data bit. Now, the cost Eb becomes, γ   (dist _ total )  Eb = ε α (hops _ total ) + β γ1  −  ( hops _ total )   Note that ε does not change the optimum number of hops, but it increases the total energy per actual data bit.

2.2. Energy Tradeoffs in Network Protocols
Nodes cannot know a priori which is the (optimal) route to other nodes because this path changes as nodes move, enter or leave the network. Therefore, the network protocol is needed for coordinating the discovery and tracking of routes in the network. This discovery and tracking requires communication between nodes, and hence consumes energy. There are two general ways to do this tracking and discovery: proactive and reactive routing. In proactive routing, the network layer periodical ly updates routes, and hence always has an up -to-date picture of the optimal routes. A proactive network finds the routes between many nodes at once in an efficient manor. Thus, the energy consumed is less than the cost of finding each particular route separately. When a packet of real data needs to be transmitted, the route is known, and the data is sent with little extraneous network activity. In a sense, there is a fixed amount of traffic generated by periodic updates, but the network overhead for any specific packet is reduced. The other method, reactive routing, discovers routes only when they are needed. Routes, in the reactive scheme, are generally not maintained until they are used. With this method, there is no fixed amount of traffic generated b y periodic updates, but there is network overhead for each specific data packet (or data stream). We can model the network behavior with two factors, πand ρ. πrepresents the proactive portion of the network, and ρ the reactive portion. Now, the energy consumed per node, En, is En = π( Eb) + (1 + ρ )( data _ bits _ sent )( Eb) It can be seen that when we wish to communicate infrequently with a few number of nodes, there is no advantage to maintainin g routes that will infrequently be used, so we favor a high ρ/π ratio. However, if the data rate is high and we communicate with a large number of nodes proactive routing can be efficient and we favor a low ρ/ ratio. Of course, hybrid methods can be used to π optimize the network for the specific application. Techniques that reduce both π and ρ are obviously desirable. There is ample opportunity for such in the dense sensor networks that we target. For example, a large

γ ( dist _ total ) Eb = α ( hops _ total ) + β γ1 − ( hops _ total ) Then, the optimal number of hops is,

 βγ− 1)  (  hops _ opt = ceiling dist _ total ∗ γ   α  
For γ the optimal number of hops is, =2,
hops _ opt = ceiling dist _ total ∗ 

 

β α

  

which is graphed in Figure 1.

log(β /α)

Figure 1: Optimal number of hops as a function of distance

number of networking updates can be av oided by realizing that often we do not need the precise path to a specific sensor node, but just a general direction. Information about the location of the node can hence help to reduce the overall routing establishment overhead.

2.3. Energy Tradeoffs at the MAC Layer
The Media-Access Control (MAC) layer affects the energy efficiency in two ways: (1) a careful control of access to the aether reduces the number of wasted transmissions, corrupted by interference of neighboring nodes in the network; (2) MAC-layer power-management can minimize the standby -power of the network, i.e. the power consumed by a radio when it is not transmitting. In A radio consumes standby power while waiting for the medium to be free to send or receive a packet, and also when it turns on periodically to do network maintenance. Standby power is typically much lower than transmit or receive power, but nonetheless, is wasted power and must be reduced to achieve our low energy goals. The MAC layer can reduce the standby power by developing a tight coordination between radios that allows them to be awake precisely when they need to transmit or receive data. Standby power, Ps, appears as an additive figure in our node energy expression. Ps can to a limited extent be decreased through clever circuit techniques. En = π( Eb) + (1 + ρ )(data _ bits _ sent )( Eb) +
Ps (awake _ time ) One problem with current radio technology is that a radio cannot know if or when another radio wants to talk to it, except by continuously monitoring the traffic. In order to reach our very low energy target, we will have to develop MAC layers that allow the radios to be asleep for most of the time. Such a radio has to wake up periodically, see if there is any one who wants to talk to it, and if not, go back to sleep. A mechanism that allows the radio to be awoken precisely when there is data for it could reduce the awake-time, and hence overall node energy consumption. If this wake -up mechanism could be made out of very low power components, or even passive components, we could drastically reduce node power.

• an embedded processor for the protocol stack layers that require more flexibility and lower speed, and its associated memory sub-system, • configurable processing modules for more speed intensive layers of the protocol • a parameterized and configurable physical layer, and • a flexible s ynthesizable interconnection scheme.
SW Embedded Processor Memory Subsystem

Interconnect Backplane Physical Layer Configurable Logic

Figure 2: PicoNode Architecture This architecture is inspired by our previous efforts in the area of reconfigurable computing [3], which demonstrated that a dynamic matching between application and architecture led to spectacular energy savings for si gnal -processing applications. In this effort, we hope to establish that a similar scenario holds for protocol and network-oriented applications. The following four-pronged approach is used to develop the target architecture for PicoNode: functional profili ng, protocol implementation, flexible interconnect implementation, and physical layer implementation. In the rest of this section, we define the goals of each task and present preliminary results.

3.1. Functional Profiling
Functional profiling helps to partitio n the application into the different blocks of the architecture, by extracting regular and reoccurring operations in protocol processing. We believe that the key to efficient implementation is to be able to recognize these operations and to define an archi tecture that matches the dominant properties of these algorithms in terms of computational elements and interconnections. Profiling is a standard technique utilized by the compiler community to tune a compiler for a specific processor. In our case, it is used to tune the architecture, both processor and dedicated hardware blocks, for the targeted application.

3. PicoNode Implementation
Implementing the network optimizations elaborated previously, requires a platform that fulfills the low -power requirements described in Section 1, yet has enough flexibility to enable the dynamic reconfiguration and adaptability of the network. We are conceiving an architecture that attempts to satisfy these challenging requirements. The PicoNode architecture (Figure 2), aims to provide both flexibility and low -energy. This architecture is composed of the following four modules:

3.2. Protocol Implementation
Efficient and flexible protocol implementation requires understanding of the tradeoffs between the microprocessor and alterna tive reconfigurable hardware platforms.

In contrast to [2], that provide a programmer's model and software development environment for a programmable platform, and [4] that provides a configurable architecture for compute intensive applications, the goal o f this step is to determine how to best integrate reconfigurable hardware into the PicoNode architecture to properly exploit energy efficiency and high computational throughput without sacrificing flexibility, possibly using results demonstrated in [1] for FPGAs. The solution comprises a well -defined method to partition the design, and a custom reconfigurable architecture that is optimized for wireless protocol processing.

of each instruction. All simulations have been run at 25MHz, 3V supply voltage, and using the same technology. Table 2 quantifies the dependency of the power consumption from the platform. The same MAC Layer function implemented in the ARM requires more than 400 times the power consumed by an ASIC implementation 1.
Table 1: Power consumption for different platforms




Power 0.26mW 2.1mW 114mW Energy 10.2pJ/op 81.4pJ/op n*457pJ/op

3.3. Interconnect Implementation
The communication patterns between components in the design are dependent upon the mapping of functionality onto the architecture. If the functionality of the design or the mapping to hardware is modified through reconfiguration, the communication requirements between components may change as well. The interconnect network between components must be flexible enough to support various configurations while remaining highly energy efficient. Both statically and dynamically reconfigurable interconnect networks are considered to find a solution that is optimized for low power and flexibility. Analog to [5], that provides a flexible interconnection scheme for data flow configurable architectures, the goal of this step is to provide a flexible interconnect for our PicoNode.

4. Conclusions
This paper has identified and examined energy minimization opportunities in wireless ad -hoc sensor and monitoring networks. It also presented a configurable architecture that enables these opportunities to be efficiently realized in silicon. We can conclude from this paper that the only way to implement an ultra -low power node is by optimizing all layers of the protocol. It is our believe that this energy conscious system-design and implementation methodology will lead to radio nodes that are one or two orders of magnitude more efficient than existing solutions.

We acknowledge the contributions of the PicoRadio Group of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center ( This research is sponsored by DARPA, as part of the PAC/C program, and by the MARCO GSRC research consortium.

3.4. Physical Layer Implementation
In order to be able to satisfy variable demand from the network, the PicoNode physical layer has to be parameterized. Parameters include power control modes, modulation scheme, and bit rate. The goal of this step is to define the parameters and ranges for those parameter that allow us to tailor the physical layer on the fly to the time -changing demands of the network. The physical layer should do the minimum work required to meet the current network demands, but retain the capability to operate at peak performance when necessary. This will result in energy efficient operation without sacrificing peak performance.

[1] George, V., Zhang, H., Rabaey, J. The Design of a Low
Energy FPGA Configurable_Architectures/papers/islped99.pdf

[2] Mescal, [3]
Pleiades, Configurable_Architectures/Default.htm

[4] RaPiD,

3.5. Preliminary Results
To quantify different implementations we mapped the MAC layer of a wireless node into three different platforms: ASIC, FPGA, ARM processor and compared from the energy perspective. For the ASIC platform power measurements have been done using Epic Tools, for the ARM using a table with information on the consumption

[5] Benes, M. "Design and Implementation of Communication and Switching Techniques for the Pleiades Family of Processors." MS Thesis, U.C. Berkeley, 1999.


n is 3 ~ 12 for this protocol and corresponds to the number of cycles per instruction.