Organizing a Global Coordinate System from Local Information on an Ad Hoc Sensor Network

  • Radhika Nagpal
  • Howard Shrobe
  • Jonathan Bachrach
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 2634)


We demonstrate that it is possible to achieve accurate localization and tracking of a target in a randomly placed wireless sensor network composed of inexpensive components of limited accuracy. The crucial enabler for this is a reasonably accurate local coordinate system aligned with the global coordinates. We present an algorithm for creating such a coordinate system without the use of global control, globally accessible beacon signals, or accurate estimates of inter-sensor distances. The coordinate system is robust and automatically adapts to the failure or addition of sensors. Extensive theoretical analysis and simulation results are presented. Two key theoretical results are: there is a critical minimum average neighborhood size of 15 for good accuracy and there is a fundamental limit on the resolution of any coordinate system determined strictly from local communication. Our simulation results show that we can achieve position accuracy to within 20% of the radio range even when there is variation of up to 10% in the signal strength of the radios. The algorithm improves with finer quantizations of inter-sensor distance estimates: with 6 levels of quantization position errors better than 10% are achieved. Finally we show how the algorithm gracefully generalizes to target tracking tasks.


Sensor Network Wireless Sensor Network Distance Estimate Global Coordinate System Radio Range 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Radhika Nagpal
    • 1
  • Howard Shrobe
    • 1
  • Jonathan Bachrach
    • 1
  1. 1.Artificial Intelligence LaboratoryMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge

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