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We propose a novel framework for location detection with sensor networks, based on the theory of identifying codes. The key idea of this approach is to allow sensor coverage areas to overlap so that each resolvable position is covered by a unique set of sensors. In this setting, determining a sensor-placement with a minimum number of sensors is equivalent to constructing an optimal identifying code, an NP-complete problem in general. We, thus, propose and analyze new polynomial-time algorithms for generating irreducible (but not necessarily optimal) codes for arbitrary topologies. Our algorithms incorporate robustness properties that are critically needed in harsh environments. We further introduce distributed versions of these algorithms, allowing sensors to self-organize and determine a (robust) identifying code without any central coordination. Through analysis and simulation, we show that our algorithms produce nearly optimal solutions for a wide range of parameters. In addition, we demonstrate a tradeoff between system robustness and the number of active sensors (which is related to the expected lifetime of the system). Finally, we present experimental results, obtained on a small testbed, that demonstrate the feasibility of our approach.