ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

First-of-its-kind Ad Hoc/Sensor Network Testbed

Communications performance in complex defense and disaster-recovery operations depends on the ability of different technology-based networks to communicate with each other. In an effort to improve communication between different wireless technologies, an ECE team has been awarded a $246,000 grant to develop a first-of-its-kind testbed that integrates mobile ad hoc networks with wireless sensor networks.

The grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP). Among the research proposals selected for this year’s DURIP grants, the project is the only one in the area of wireless networks.

The integration of mobile ad hoc networks and wireless sensor networks is a key building block in the communications infrastructure that the Department of Defense wants to develop, according to Thomas Hou, assistant professor and principal investigator on the project. Both military and disaster-recovery operations will run more smoothly when people can communicate with each other as they move around, while at the same time getting up-to-date information from stationary wireless sensors describing changes in the environment or hostile operations, he explained.

Graphical representation of the wireless network

“Ad hoc networks are typically mobile and capable of handling a variety of traffic types for point-to-point or group communications,” he said. “On the other hand, wireless sensor networks are usually stationary, severely energy-constrained, and are used for many-to-one communications.”

Because of the different technology bases, research to date has addressed each network separately, he said. “This has created a critical performance gap in communicating between these two networks.”

Hou is working with professor Jeffrey Reed, a wireless communications and software-defined-radio (SDR) expert, and with research scientist Shiwen Mao to create the testbed. The team plans a two-tier logical network architecture, with a wireless sensor network on the lower tier and a mobile ad hoc network on the upper tier. “This architecture should seamlessly integrate the sensing capabilities of the sensor network with the processing and communications capabilities of the ad hoc network,” Hou said. The group plans to investigate protocol and algorithm requirements for optimal inter-operation between both types of networks. The testbed will also be used to study wireless networking with smart antennas, video communications over dynamic ad hoc networks, energy-efficient sensor networks, and SDR development.

The testbed will be housed in Torgersen Hall, a building designed and wired to host advanced research in communications and computing.