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Wireless sensor networks (WSN) have specific constraints and stringent requirements in contrast to traditional wired and wireless computer networks. Among these specific requirements, energy-efficiency is the most prominent. Sensor motes have finite amount of energy supply. In most WSN applications, hundreds or thousands of motes are deployed in an area (e.g., behind enemy lines or foliage) and there is no provision for battery recharging. Therefore, a fundamental constraint on WSN applications and services is to extend the network's lifetime by making the batteries run longer. In this paper we propose an energy-efficient time synchronization protocol, referred as ETSP, which gives significant improvement in energy consumption over existing time synchronization schemes. We first evaluate the existing reference broadcast synchronization (RBS) and time-sync protocol for sensor networks (TPSN), which are two prominent examples of receiver-receiver and sender-receiver synchronization methods. This performance analysis demonstrates that combination of RBS and TPSN can work better than using these techniques separately. In the proposed ETSP protocol, we identify conditions to toggle between RBS and TPSN based on a threshold value. We experimentally and mathematically derive an optimal value of the switching threshold for different sensor motes. In this way we effectively reduce the number of transmissions which results in saving energy. Moreover, we assess the performance of our protocol on the bit error traces collected over a real WSN test bed to cater for retransmissions overload for the time synchronization protocols under consideration.
Date of Conference: 25-28 March 2008