A Multi-Agent System Architecture For Sensor Networks

Introduction

Today it is increasingly important a good design architectures that support sensors. Thischapter shows how the design of the control systems for sensor networks presents important challenges because of using sensor networks has design problems. Besides the traditional aspects about how to process the data to get the target information, engineers need to consider additional aspects such as the heterogeneity and high number of sensors, and the flexibility of these networks regarding topologies and sensors in them.

The increasing availability of sensors plugable in networks at low costs is rapidly increasing their use for different applications like smart spaces or surveillance systems (Tubaishat, M. & Madria, S. 2003).These networks pose important challenges for engineers working in the development of the related control systems. Some of the most relevant are:

• Potential high number of nodes. The current trend is to set up networks densely populated
with sensors and a minor number of controllers (Yick et al., 2008). These magnitudes
imply that engineers must consider issues such as the organization of the
communications and local pre-processing of data to save bandwidth and get suitable
response times.

• Sensor heterogeneity. These networks include a wide variety of types of devices (e.g.
cameras, motion sensors or microphones) whose management and usage differs (Hill et
al., 2000). These sensors are usually specialized in specific applications, so they do not
offer the same services. The combination of different types of sensors in a network and
the use of its data requires a high-level of modularity and adaptability in the
architecture.

• Changing network topology. Sensor networks are less stable than traditional computer networks (Yick et al., 2008). Their sensors are more prone to fail than conventional computational devices: they frequently operate unattended in environments that can lead them to malfunction, and with very limited resources. A common way to overcome sensor failure is redeploying new sensors, which further changes the network
topology. These changes make that the control of the network must deal with ad-hoc
topologies to attend the communications needs of a given moment with the available
resources.

• Several levels of data processing. Processing of data happens at both local and global levels
(Tubaishat, M. & Madria, S. 2003). Since sensors can be deployed over quite wide areas,
the management of data may need to be contextualized, for instance to determine what signals are relevant in a situation. Nevertheless, centralized processing is also necessary, mainly for the transformations and integration of data. Thus, the architecture of the control must deal with groups at different levels that need to coordinate.

• Unreliable networks of reduced bandwidth. The network established in these cases is highly unreliable when compared with wired networks (Yick et al., 2008). It is usually a wireless network where the hostile environment produces intermittent connectivity with a high variability in the conditions for communication. This issue requires solutions similar to those of the changing topology.

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