A scalable synchronization protocol for large scale sensor networks and its applications

Yao Win Hong, Anna Scaglione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


Synchronization is considered a particularly difficult task in wireless sensor networks due to its decentralized structure. Interestingly, synchrony has often been observed in networks of biological agents (e.g., synchronously flashing fireflies, or spiking of neurons). In this paper, we propose a bio-inspired network synchronization protocol for large scale sensor networks that emulates the simple strategies adopted by the biological agents. The strategy synchronizes pulsing devices that are led to emit their pulses periodically and simultaneously. The convergence to synchrony of our strategy follows from the theory of Mirollo and Strogatz, 1990, while the scalability is evident from the many examples existing in the natural world. When the nodes are within a single broadcast range, our key observation is that the dependence of the synchronization time on the number of nodes N is subject to a phase transition: for values of N beyond a specific threshold, the synchronization is nearly immediate; while for smaller N, the synchronization time decreases smoothly with respect to N. Interestingly, a tradeoff is observed between the total energy consumption and the time necessary to reach synchrony. We obtain an optimum operating point at the local minimum of the energy consumption curve that is associated to the phase transition phenomenon mentioned before. The proposed synchronization protocol is directly applied to the cooperative reach-back communications problem. The main advantages of the proposed method are its scalability and low complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1099
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication systems
  • Distributed algorithms
  • Distributed feedback oscillators
  • Sensor networks
  • Synchronization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'A scalable synchronization protocol for large scale sensor networks and its applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this