Hardware design experiences in ZebraNet

Abstract

The enormous potential for wireless sensor networks to make a positive impact on our society has spawned a great deal of research on the topic, and this research is now producing environment-ready systems. Current technology limits coupled with widely-varying application requirements lead to a diversity of hardware platforms for different portions of the design space. In addition, the unique energy and reliability constraints of a system that must function for months at a time without human intervention mean that demands on sensor network hardware are different from the demands on standard integrated circuits. This paper describes our experiences designing sensor nodes and low level software to control them. In the ZebraNet system we use GPS technology to record fine-grained position data in order to track long term animal migrations [14]. The ZebraNet hardware is composed of a 16-bit TI microcontroller, 4 Mbits of off-chip flash memory, a 900 MHz radio, and a low-power GPS chip. In this paper, we discuss our techniques for devising efficient power supplies for sensor networks, methods of managing the energy consumption of the nodes, and methods of managing the peripheral devices including the radio, flash, and sensors. We conclude by evaluating the design of the ZebraNet nodes and discussing how it can be improved. Our lessons learned in developing this hardware can be useful both in designing future sensor nodes and in using them in real systems.

DOI: 10.1145/1031495.1031522

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