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Most of the current research in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) is constraint driven and focuses on optimizing the use of limited resources (e.g., power) at each sensor. While such constraints are important, there is a energy for more general performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of WSNs. There is also a need for a unified formal model that would enable comparison of different types of WSNs and provide a framework for WSN operations. We propose a new service-centric model that focuses on services provided by a WSN and views a WSN as a service provider. A WSN is modeled at different levels of abstraction. For each level, a set of services and a set of metrics are defined. Services and their interfaces are defined in a formal way to facilitate automatic composition of services, and enable interoperability and multitasking of WSNs at the different levels. A two-way mapping between two neighboring levels is then defined as a decomposition (from higher to lower level) and composition (from lower to higher level). A composite mapping between metrics at different levels connects high-level, mission-oriented metrics and low-level, capability-oriented metrics. The service-centric model consists of mission, network, region, sensor, and capability layers. Each layer has associated semantics that use lower level components as syntactic units (except for the capability layer). Within each layer there are four planes or functionality sets; communication, management, application, and generational learning. The combination of layers and planes enables a service-based visualization paradigm that can provide better understanding of the WSN. The service-centric model provides a holistic approach to measuring and presenting WSNs effectiveness. In addition, it presents a general and flexible framework in which various more specific WSN models can be represented and evaluated.