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this paper, current research status and possible development trend of application-oriented wireless sensor network (AOWSN) are introduced firstly. Second, we ...

Application-Oriented Wireless Sensor Network Communication Protocols and Hardware Platforms: a Survey Zhongmin Pei*, Zhidong Deng, Member, IEEE, Bo Yang, Xiaoliang Cheng Department of Computer Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China Tel: +86-10-62777704, Fax: +86-10-62796830 * E-mail: [email protected] Abstract-With the promotion of industry community, wireless

physical interfaces, and defines the wireless communication

sensor network (WSN) has been widely applied to many fields. In

specification and interoperation for smart sensor network [4].

this paper, current research status and possible development

On October 2006, IEEE 802.15.4a wireless communication

trend of application-oriented wireless sensor network (AOWSN)

standard with 2Mbps data transmission rate is approved [5]. It

are introduced firstly. Second, we analyze and compare the short

makes multimedia WSN applications possible. Short distance

distance wireless communication protocols that can be used in

wireless communication standards, such as Bluetooth, UWB ,

WSN such as ZigBee, Wibree, Rubee, IEEE 802.15.4a, Z-Wave

ZigBee, IEEE 802.15.4a, WiBree, and Rubee bring multiple

etc. The advantage and disadvantage of these protocols are

choices for various WSN applications.

discussed. Third, AOWSN hardware core modules, including

On March 2006, Sun Corp. published a WSN development

radio frequency (RF) and micro controller unit (MCU) chips are

platform based on Java and ARM9 core, called SPOT [6]. Intel

analyzed. We then investigate the hardware components of

released the Imote2 sensor node based on PXA271 XSCAL

current popular WSN nodes such as MICAz, iMote2, SPOT, and

high performance processor. OKI and Jennic also released their

XYZ. Fourth, we describe the Cicada series of nodes that are

own hardware development platform for WSN based on 32 bit

developed in this paper. Finally, we draw conclusion.

processor. The improvement of processing and storage capacity enables WSN node to carry out complex algorithms



and network protocols.

Up to April 2007, ZigBee Alliance has counted more than

On February 2007, the Nature magazine reported an

214 members, and the standard of ZigBee-Pro version is

approach to produce nanometer biological sensors with

officially made [1]. Subsequently, semiconductor IC suppliers

traditional methods by Yale University [7]. The emergence of

such as TI, Freescale, Ember, OKI, and Microchip release their

new type sensors has greatly promoted the application process

own ZigBee solutions based on System on Chip (SoC) or

of WSN.

System in Package (SiP) single chip, respectively. The price of

These milestone events show that WSN has been

single chip falls to about 4 U.S. dollars. It leads to a new

extensively applied in industry out of library in recent years. In

opportunity to develop a variety of WSN applications based on

this paper, we focus on the following three aspects: WSN

ZigBee standard. At the same time, Z-Ware Alliance for

wireless communication protocols, WSN hardware platforms,

wireless automatic control continues developing, and there are

and the Cicada series of nodes developed by us. The remainder

more than 70 members until now [2]. ISA SP100 committee

of the paper is organized as follows: In Section 2, we analyze

has announced the formation of two new standard working

and compare the short distance and low rate wireless

groups, i.e., SP100.11 and SP100.14, in order to define various

communication protocols which can be used in WSN



applications. In Section 3, AOWSN hardware platforms are

applications [3]. IEEE 1451.5 working group takes WiFi,

studied. We present our related work on the Cicada series of

BlueTooth, ZigBee wireless communication standards as

nodes in Section 4. Finally, we conclude our paper.

of wireless


standards for

978-1-4244-1706-3/08/$25.00 ©2008 IEEE.



Due to the requirement for a great diversity of applications, various wireless communication standards are prompted. In WWAN, WMAN, and WLAN areas, CDMA2000, WCDMA, WiMAX, and WiFi have aroused more and more interest. But they are not suitable for use in small, low power devices for their high power consumption. Low rate, low cost, restricted energy, and short distance transmission are main features of WSN applications. Thus, WPAN standards are widely adopted in WSN applications. In WPAN area, Bluetooth, UWB, ZigBee, Z-Wave, RFID, and IRDA standards are stepping towards a new application phase. IEEE 802.15.4a, Wibree, RuBee, IEEE 1451.5, and the other new protocols are rapidly emerging. The following gives a brief introduction of AOWSN

ZigBee stack is made up of the framework for application layer and network layer as shown in Fig. 1 [8]. Network layer responds to build a network, route frames and store neighbor information etc. This layer conceptually includes two service entities: data service and the management service. The application layer framework comprises the application support sub-layer,






objects, objects

and to

the finish

point-to-point addressing, endpoint binding, and service discovering. 2.

Z-Wave protocol Z-Wave protocol defines a two way radio system which

operates at 908MHz. It focuses on these small amounts of data applications such as WSN [9], lighting and appliance control, HVAC, access control, intruder and fire detection etc.

wireless communication protocols.

Therefore it uses a data rate of just 9.6Kbps originally and is A. 1.

Wireless communication protocols for AOWSN ZigBee protocol

extended later to 40Kbps. Developers can setup a mesh network based on a source-routing protocol which was

ZigBee is a self-organized WPAN protocol based on IEEE

developed by Zensys Corp. on top of link layer. Zensys also

802.15.4-2003 MAC and physical layer. Up to now, ZigBee

released ZW0201 single chip which integrates a RF transceiver,

Alliance has released ZigBee 1.0

an 8051 MCU, a Flash storage [10].



specifications, and ZigBee-Pro version has also been completed [1]. ZigBee protocol supports star, tree, and mesh topologies. There are three types of devices in ZigBee protocol: coordinator, router, and end device [8]. A PAN only has one coordinator which is responsible for starting the network and choosing network parameters. Two end devices can not communicate with each other. ZigBee protocol supports direct addressing with IEEE 64 bit address, indirect addressing, group addressing and broadcast addressing.

Fig. 2 Z-Wave protocol stack

As shown in Fig. 2 [10], the Z-Wave stack consists of PHY/ MAC layer, transport layer, network routing layer, and application layer. PHY/MAC layer controls access to RF media. It uses FSK modulation with Manchester channel encoding. Transfer layer controls the transfer of data between two nodes including retransmission, checksum check, and acknowledgements. Network routing layer are responsible for package routing between nodes, data retransmitting, scanning Fig.1 Outline of ZigBee stack architecture

network topology and so on. One of the key features of

Z-Wave technology is the routing capability of all the nodes in

project-Standard based on Rubee protocol [14]. IEEE P1902.1

the network. Z-Wave automatically routes the signal from one

will offer a real-time, tag-searchable protocol using IPv4

node to the next. The Z-Wave application layer is responsible

addresses that run at speeds of 300 to 9,600 Baud. Individual

for decoding and executing commands in a Z-Wave network.

tags and tag data may be viewed as a stand-alone, web server


from anywhere in the world. Each enabled RuBee tag can be

Wibree protocol On October 3, 2006, Nokia introduced Wibree technology as

discovered and monitored over the World Wide Web using

an open industry initiative extending local connectivity to

popular search engines such as Google or via the Visible

small devices, which is supported by a group of leading

Asset's Tag Name Server. Interpretabilities of different Corp.’s

companies such as Broadcom , CSR, Epson , Nordic and so on

devices are also defined in specifications.

[11]. Wibree protocol is similar to Bluetooth with 0-10 m


The other WSN-related communication protocols ISA SP100.14 and SP100.11 WG are working to provide a

communication range and 1 Mbps data rate.

complete and integrated set of standards for industrial wireless applications [3]. Working groups will define wireless connectivity standards optimized for industrial monitoring, logging and alerting applications. The standard will address the wireless needs in the industrial environment that includes sensors, wireless workers, first responders, and wireless

infrastructure networks. Coexistence with other wireless devices anticipated in the industrial work space, such as

Fig. 3 Wibree protocol stack

As shown in Fig. 3 [12], Nokia’s Wibree solution has two

IEEE802.15x, 802.16x, and RFID will also be addressed.


IEEE P802.15.4a was approved as a new amendment to

Bluetooth-Wibree Dual-Mode Chip. The stand-alone chip is

IEEE Standard 802.15.4 by the IEEE-SA Standards Board on

well suited for applications where only small quantities of data

March, 22 2007 [5]. Standard is based on Chirp Spread

are transferred such as for watches and sports sensors. The

Spectrum(CSS) technology which was jointly proposed by

Bluetooth-Wibree dual-mode chip is designed for use in

Nanotron and Orthotron with 2Mbps data rate, up to 900

Bluetooth devices. Therefore Wibree functionality can be

meters’ range in free space [15]. Currently, Nanotron has

integrated with Bluetooth for a minor incremental cost by

announced its real time location chip: nanoLOC TRX.





utilizing key Bluetooth components and the existing Bluetooth

The IEEE 1451.5 WG is endeavoring to develop the

RF. This type of implementation allows Bluetooth devices to

specification for a wireless smart sensor standard that will

connect to a new range of tiny battery-powered devices.

allow data interoperability among the various wireless sensor

Wibree protocol is currently in progress.

systems or networks. On March 26, 2007, IEEE 1451.5 has


been approved by IEEE as a full-use standard.

RuBee protocol RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer network

Recently, Echelon Corp. announced a media-independent

protocol that uses long wavelength transceiver mode under 450

control-networking technology that has trained its sights on an

kHz [13]. This protocol can work with networks of many

eventual role in the low cost WSN market [16]. This ‘light’

thousands of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet. The

platform is called Pyxos. Pyxos networks are intended to be

battery life of tags is about 10 years. Rubee is getting support

integrated inside a sensor or actuator. It is regarded as a

from companies such as Metro, Motorola, IBM, Sony,

challenge to ZigBee and Z-Wave standard.

Panasonic and NCR for its character of working in harsh environments such as near steel or water and around corners, where RFID or ZigBee protocol is not applicable to. On June 8, 2006, the IEEE-SA Standards Board approved P1902.1


Comparison of short distance wireless communication protocols Sensors exist everywhere in industry. In fact, the broad

applications of WSN associates closely with the development

of short distance wireless communication standard. Due to the

2, we can observe that SoC or SiP ZigBee single chip solutions

application-related features of WSN, wireless communication

of TI, Freescale, Radio Pulse, Ember, OkI, and Jennic Corp.

area appears a phenomenon of a hundred flowers blossoming

take main place in WSN chip market. Among these ZigBee

as mentioned above. Table 1 gives comparison of these

chips,CC2420 has the lowest TX and RX supply current while

protocols from the perspective of operating frequency brand,

JN513x chip of Jennic has a high consumption. CC2431 chip

range, bandwidth, and consumption.

of TI integrates 8051 MCU core and is designed with location

As shown in Table 1, the power consumption of WiFi is

engine. Freescale is one of the sponsors of ZigBee alliance.

larger than the other protocols. Thus, it is suitable to

Its one-stop ZigBee solutions including MC132x SiP chip and

applications with wired devices such as WLAN devices. UWB

Beekit ZigBee protocol stack software are announced lately.

can be used as a communication protocol of multimedia WSN

IEEE 802.15.4a protocol is based on Nanotron’s CSS

applications such as audio and video due to its large bandwidth.

technique. NA5TR1 is Nanotron’s real time location CSS chip.

The transmission range of Bluetooth protocol is very near and

CSR and TI’s Bluetooth chip are very popular among

the protocol is more complex. Its consumption is larger than

Bluetooth chips. Pyxos FT and ZW0201 chips are main

the other protocols except WiFi and the corresponding size of

products of Pyxos and Z-Wave standards. ZW0201 has higher

networks is restricted. Thus, it can not be used in large scale

sensitivity than the other kinds of chips.








anti-jamming ability and can work in harsh environments. Tiny














27 ,25

SoC, 8051 CPU








SiP, HCS08




SoC,8051 CPU





SoC,16bit CPU




39, 39

SoC, 32bit CPU





SoC,8bit CPU







Pyxos FT














devices or tags are their main target of application. ZigBee and Z-Wave standard are supported by a group of leading companies because of their excellent features. Currently, they


are extensively adopted in WSN applications. TABLE 1 SHORT DISTANCE WIRELESS COMMUNICATION PROTOCOLS Protocol

Operating Band







Life (day)




2.4G /915M ZigBee /868M


Freescale Radio Pulse












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