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Sensor networks are distributed event-based systems that differ from traditional communication networks in several ways: sensor networks have severe energy constraints, redundant low-rate data, and many-to-one flows. Data-centric mechanisms that perform in-network aggregation of data are needed in this setting for energy-efficient information flow. In this paper we model data-centric routing and compare its performance with traditional end-to-end routing schemes. We examine the impact of source-destination placement and communication network density on the energy costs and delay associated with data aggregation. We show that data-centric routing offers significant performance gains across a wide range of operational scenarios. We also examine the complexity of optimal data aggregation, showing that although it is an NP-hard problem in general, there exist useful polynomial-time special cases.