Five Challenges in Wide-Area Sensor Systems

  • Phillip B. Gibbons
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 3560)


Most sensor network research to date has targeted ad hoc wireless networks of closely co-located, resource-constrained, scalar sensor motes. Such work has tended to overlook the potential importance of wide-area sensor systems–heterogeneous collections of Internet-connected sensor devices. A wide-area sensor system enables a rich collection of sensors such as cameras, microphones, infrared detectors, RFID readers, vibration sensors, accelerometers, etc. to be incorporated into a unified system capable of accessing, filtering, processing, querying, and reacting to sensed data. The sensor system can be programmed to provide useful sensing services that combine traditional data sources with tens to millions of live sensor feeds.

While the unique and many challenges of resource-constrained sensor networks are apparent, the limited research into wide-area sensor systems may indicate that researchers have not seen any interesting challenges in such systems. After all, where are the research challenges in sensor systems blessed with powerful, powered, Internet-connected computers with significant memory and storage?

In this talk, I will describe five research challenges in wide-area sensor systems that I believe are worthy of further pursuit. The challenges are: (1) scalability, (2) ease of service authorship, (3) robustness/manageability, (4) actuation, and (5) privacy. Although certainly not an exhaustive list, I believe these five make the case that wide-area sensor systems are an interesting area with many challenges and open questions. In discussing the research challenges, I will highlight techniques used to address some of the challenges within IrisNet [1,2,3,4,5], a wide-area sensor system we have developed over the past three years.


  1. 1.
    IrisNet (Internet-scale Resource-Intensive Sensor Network Service),
  2. 2.
    Chen, S., Gibbons, P.B., Nath, S.: Database-centric programming for wide-area sensor systems. In: Prasanna, V.K., Iyengar, S.S., Spirakis, P.G., Welsh, M. (eds.) DCOSS 2005. LNCS, vol. 3560, pp. 89–108. Springer, Heidelberg (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Deshpande, A., Nath, S.K., Gibbons, P.B., Seshan, S.: Cache-and-query for wide area sensor databases. In: Proceedings of the 2003 ACM SIGMOD International Conference on Management of Data, pp. 503–514 (2003)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gibbons, P.B., Karp, B., Ke, Y., Nath, S., Seshan, S.: Irisnet: An architecture for a worldwide sensor web. IEEE Pervasive Computing 2(4), 22–33 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Nath, S., Ke, Y., Gibbons, P.B., Karp, B., Seshan, S.: A distributed filtering architecture for multimedia sensors. In: Proceedings of the First IEEE Workshop on Broadband Advanced Sensor Networks (2004)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip B. Gibbons
    • 1
  1. 1.Intel Research Pittsburgh 

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