Energetic sustainability of routing algorithms for energy-harvesting wireless sensor networks
A new class of wireless sensor networks that harvest power from the environment is emerging because of its intrinsic capability of providing unbounded lifetime. While a lot of research has been focused on energy-aware routing schemes tailored to battery-operated networks, the problem of optimal routing for energy harvesting wireless sensor networks (EH-WSNs) has never been explored. The objective of routing optimization in this context is not extending network lifetime, but maximizing the workload that can be autonomously sustained by the network. In this work we present a methodology for assessing the energy efficiency of routing algorithms for networks whose nodes drain power from the environment. We first introduce the energetic sustainability problem, then we define the maximum energetically sustainable workload (MESW) as the objective function to be used to drive the optimization of routing algorithms for EH-WSNs. We propose a methodology that makes use of graph algorithms and network simulations for evaluating the MESW starting from a network topology, a routing algorithm and a distribution of the environmental power available at each node. We present a tool flow implementing the proposed methodology and we show comparative results achieved on several routing algorithms. Experimental results highlight that routing strategies that do not take into account environmental power do not provide optimal results in terms of workload sustainability. Using optimal routing algorithms may lead to sizeable enhancements of the maximum sustainable workload. Moreover, optimality strongly depends on environmental power configurations. Since environmental power sources change over time, our results prompt for a new class of routing algorithms for EH-WSNs that are able to dynamically adapt to time-varying environmental conditions.
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