Scalable network synchronization with pulse-coupled oscillators

Roberto Pagliari, Anna Scaglione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The Pulse-Coupled Oscillator (PCO) is a novel protocol inspired by models used in mathematical biology to justify the emergence of synchrony in the natural world. Our paper introduces and demonstrates the efficacy of a new PCO protocol implementation that, by disabling all collision resolution mechanisms for a suitable portion of the node operations, lets the rapid establishment of a common clock and its maintenance. The key idea is to allow signals to be superimposed in time, a feature that is absent in previous implementations, because it is prevented by traditional medium access schemes. We map the PCO protocol into an event-driven asynchronous coloring algorithm, based on the local exchange of information to explain its convergence properties. The event-based description of the PCO protocol sets the stage for our experimental comparison with a competing decentralized network synchronization approach, namely, the Reference Broadcast Protocol (RBS). For comparison, we combined RBS with an asynchronous average consensus protocol, running exactly on the same MicaZ platforms. The experimental results showcase the better scalability of the PCO scheme compared to the competing method based on RBS, proving that the PCO primitive is a reasonable option to consider for wireless sensor network applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5582096
Pages (from-to)392-405
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Wireless sensor networks
  • pulse-coupled oscillators.
  • synchronization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Scalable network synchronization with pulse-coupled oscillators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this