Energy Resilient Self-Organized Communication Networks

The power outage in India in July 2012 left more than 700 million people without electricity and caused the failure of all major infrastructures. Base stations and access points of the backbone infrastructure for mobile communication networks were left without power for days. This resulted in mobile communication being congested, unreachable and useless.

Similarly, in November 2012, as Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States, wireless communications coverage in the western half of the Rockaway Peninsula, in New York was almost non-existent. Communication providers struggled for weeks, as more than 300 (wireline) offices were flooded and around 25% of their wireless towers were either uprooted or severely damaged. As one-fourth of the infrastructure became unavailable, sudden surge in traffic (or flash crowds) pressured existing communication infrastructure and eventually made them crash.

Such disrupting events have accentuated the vulnerability of infrastructure-based communication networks and drawn attention towards the need to design infrastructure-less communication networks. The literature has focused on utilizing the wireless capability of end-user devices (e.g. smart phones or tablets) as an approach to do this. In this approach information exchange between mobile phones does not require a base station or tower. Instead mobile phones use their inbuilt wireless interfaces, such as blue-tooth and Wi-Fi, to form direct communication networks on-the-fly.

As the use of mobile phones skyrockets, designing mechanisms that allow the formation of an on-the fly network during disrupting events becomes a possibility. Besides, their widespread reach in remote locations makes them an easily available solution for communication. Further, these mechanisms can be beneficial in many developing countries, which always lack infrastructure and have region specific pockets of zero network connectivity.

Using mobile phones to form infrastructure-less on-demand wireless mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) however also presents certain challenges. To work in an infrastructure-less mode phones need to route information instead of base stations. Routing, sending, receiving and relaying information increases the energy consumption of participating nodes. However, phones have limited battery life and therefore cannot keep doing this for a longer period of time.

Thus specific mobile nodes may run out of battery and eventually leave the network. This sudden removal of nodes causes segmentation of the network and affects the robustness required to support connectivity for a larger area. This can inevitably impact the performance and longevity of the overall network. Additionally, to conserve energy, individual nodes may leave and or start dropping messages thereby impacting reliability of message delivery. Furthermore this problem can affect the scalability. Scalability determines the number of mobile nodes that can participate or be benefited by the network without affecting the performance. Lack of thresholds and limitations for energy constraint nodes affects the quality of service and prevents the formation of a scalable communication network.

To mitigate these challenges and to design a robust, reliable and scalable infrastructure-less mobile communication, energy resilience needs consideration. So far this has not been investigated. This project looks into the many trade-offs involved between network adaptivity and energy consumption. A conceptual model is designed to study these trade-offs, designing and comparing different protocols and mechanisms that allow mobile nodes to decrease their resource consumption or maximize their battery life by adapting their routing behavior..Routing is adapted based on individual nodes resource constraints and surrounding parameters. Furthermore the project investigates if designing adaptive, energy-efficient mechanisms or communication protocols leads to a robust, scalable and reliable communication network.

The mechanisms and protocols will be based on the property of self-organization for designing distributed adaptive communication protocols that will run on mobile nodes as software agents. Once deployed in a given environment (infrastructure-less resource constrained) it will self-organize and adapt in a decentralized mechanism to meet a global emergent functionality of a bigger connected network.

Promoter: Frances Brazier
Daily Supervisor: Martijn Warnier

About Indushree Banerjee

Indushree Banerjee has a master’s degree from the University of St Andrews, UK and specializes in networks and distributed systems. Her current research interests are catered around facilitating network resilience for the sustainable development of society. Originally from India, she graduated from West Bengal University of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering. She has worked as a network engineer and as a senior web developer previously. She also gathered research experience as an assistant and published work on immersive learning through 3D virtualization, disaster management using wireless technologies, scripting languages for simulated environments and on network resilience and SLA.

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