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The design of Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols for wireless sensor networks (WSNs) has been conventionally tackled by assuming battery-powered devices and by adopting the network lifetime as the main performance criterion. While WSNs operated by energy-harvesting (EH) devices are not limited by network lifetime, they pose new design challenges due to the uncertain amount of energy that can be harvested from the environment. Novel design criteria are thus required to capture the trade-offs between the potentially infinite network lifetime and the uncertain energy availability. This paper addresses the analysis and design of WSNs with EH devices by focusing on conventional MAC protocols, namely TDMA, framed-ALOHA (FA) and dynamic-FA (DFA), and by accounting for the performance trade-offs and design issues arising due to EH. A novel metric, referred to as delivery probability, is introduced to measure the capability of a MAC protocol to deliver the measurement of any sensor in the network to the intended destination (or fusion center, FC). The interplay between delivery efficiency and time efficiency (i.e., the data collection rate at the FC), is investigated analytically using Markov models. Numerical results validate the analysis and emphasize the critical importance of accounting for both delivery probability and time efficiency in the design of EH-WSNs.
Date of Publication: May 2012