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May 18th, 2008
WINSOC Project Advances the Promise of Wireless Sensor Networks

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thumb_winsocWireless sensor networks are poised to expand as they become more popular. WINSOC (Wireless
Sensor Networks with Self-Organization
Capabilities for Critical and Emergency Applications), is a
project funded by the FP6 Information Society Technologies programme
of the European Union. The
project goal is to improve the performance of sensor networks by
using a biologically inspired design –inscribed in the frame of the
so called bioinspired science that basically consists of looking at
nature to solve problems, that is, using living organisms as a model
to study and conceptualize problems in a variety of fields as
engineering and design, materials or sociology for example.

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Wireless sensor networks
Wireless Sensor
Networks (WSNs) is a hot topic within the network communications
community as it appears as the driver of a fully pervasive scenario.
These wireless sensor networks are made up of many miniature, low
power, inexpensive devices, deployed throughout a physical space,
that are able to sense, compute and communicate. In fact, these
devices communicate and collaborate each other to gather and
share/disseminate information about the instrumented
environment—monitoring parameters distributed in it. These
parameters are related to a variety of applications such as
infrastructure security, chemical and biological hazard detection,
natural hazards and the broad area of environment including disaster
relief, emergency, patient and habitat monitoring, traffic control,
and any other application/field still unexplored that could be part
of a pervasive scenario.

The emergence of
sensor networks has been possible due to the advances in the design
and fabrication of low power VLSI circuitry that has enabled the
production of small, low power, and cheap sensors with which the
network is made up. Advances in nanotechnology make the sensor
network arena even more promising and challenging—the sensors would
become part of the manufacturing process for materials and objects,
would take the energy from their environment, and the vision would
continuously evolve, requiring also new information technology
architectures and design paradigms. As a matter of fact, WSNs as
being the driver of the confluence of embedded and real time systems,
promise to revolutionize our ability to sense and control a variety
of physical environments, and helps to create a nascent
infrastructure for a technical, economic, and social revolution.

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The nature of the network
However, much work
remains before WSNs reach all their potential gains: these networks
have unique attributes as limited power and memory and computational
resources, and also a dynamically varying network configuration.
These limitations make difficult to address WSNs in the same way than
conventional networks even introducing adaptation and scaling—
“current paradigms in WSNs state of the art greatly reflect,
although scaled and adapted, well known and consolidated
methodological approaches borrowed from telecom networks, which
however have been developed to cope with totally different
requirements with respect to a sensor network” WINSOC team
explains. WINSOC major aim is to introduce a new paradigm to actually
solve the important problem about the specific conflicting
requirements appearing in a sensor network – low complexity in
sensor devices, high reliability of the
decision/estimation/measurement of the network as a whole, long term
lifetime, high scalability, and resilience to congestion.

To this
end, the network design is conceived as a biologically inspired
system which means that is able to self-assemble into organized
structures, in which the sensor nodes behave as biological
entities—are able to make decisions based on their local
environment and their own individual state; these nodes are “small”
calculating machines in the network that need only to carry out very
simple rules, thus eliminating the need of the inefficient complex
protocol interactions used for end to end communications. This
approach permits to build distributed detection and estimation
capabilities which are key to gain understanding of a WSN scenario.

Innovative design
develops a totally innovative design methodology where the high
accuracy and reliability of the whole network is achieved by
introducing a suitable coupling among adjacent, low cost, sensors,
enabling a global distributed detection or estimation more accurate
than that achievable by each single sensor”, says Paolo Capodieci
from Selex Communications who coordinates the project, “in this way
we eliminate the need for sending all the data to a fusion centre”.
With this new idea of taking inspiration from processes found in
biology to devise sensor networks, WINSOC is intended to
significantly improve performance and competitiveness in both generic
network sensor design —paving the way for the likely dramatic
evolution of the technology— and in the broad area of environment
and emergency applications. Three system level simulators have been
developed and tested for prediction and detection of landslides and
also for monitoring temperature fields, the latter within the
application to forest detection and fire risk estimation.

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Connecting to the web
The key issue in
the project that makes the difference is that of using distributed
algorithms; as a matter of fact, the uniqueness of the research is
decentralising the decision making to the node level: “we have
obtained a distributed consensus mechanism that allows a set of nodes
to reach globally optimal estimation or detection tests, without
requiring a fusion centre, in the case where the whole network is
observing a common event” Paolo Capodieci remarks.

This approach provides full scalability, low vulnerability,
robustness to duty-cycle, low congestion, and makes the system
particularly attractive to detection and estimation applications.
“We also are developing a Sensor Web that will allow
that both applications and services can access sensors of all types
over the Web; this aspect will be particularly important to the
wireless sensor network community” he adds. Sensor Web is a
technology that is increasingly attracting attention as it opens up
new strands for distributed sensing and control: it can be described
as a distributed sensing system in which information is globally
shared and used by all networked platforms, and was conceived in 1997
at the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The objective of a
Sensor Web is to extract knowledge from the data it gathers and use
this information to intelligently react and adapt to its

Applications to the landscape
Apart from the
efforts in pure sensor network technology, the project pays special
attention to the applications since it is well known that WSN design
is generally application driven: the specific application’s
requirements determine how the network behaves. Both wildfires and
landslides are the applications targeted. Landslides and avalanches
in Europe and all over the world cause important economic and
societal losses and, further, the number of casualties as direct or
indirect consequence is increasing.

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The growing number of land-use
and critical infrastructures, as well as the global climatic change,
are major risk factors associated with landslides and avalanches. In
WINSOC the landslide application is being developed in India as this
country is particularly affected by the problem of landslides; the
annual loss due to landslides are around 400 million dollars —this
makes it a good scenario to develop the application study; Amrita
University conducts this work. According to Maneesha Ramesh, from
Amrita, the work under development will be particularly useful to
actually bridge the gap between a highly occurring natural hazard as
are landslides and a strong innovating technology as are the
bioinspired wireless sensor networks that WINSOC teams are

In March 2008 the
design of a prototype node was already completed and the work teams
leaded by Selex Communications started its development “we are
driven by a commitment of translating our research results into a
product that can sell, that is why we are going to articulate the
node implementation in terms of ability to adapt to different
operational scenarios, flexibility meaning no intrinsic constraints,
reconfiguration capability, and in terms of suitability for
multi-application overlay that means parallel running procedures; and
also suitability for potential networking enabling clustering. In
this way, we will be able to actually introduce the knowledge
produced by WINSOC into the marketplace” Paolo Capodieci explains.

Project partners and summary

WINSOC is coordinated by Selex
Communications (Italy); other partners include the University of Rome
“La Sapienza” (Italy), the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale
de Lausanne (Switzerland), Intracom (Greece), the Commissariat per
l’Energie Atomique-LETI (France), the Czech Centre for Science and
Society (Czech Republic), Dune (Italy), Technical University of
Catalonia – UPC (Spain), Indian Space Organisation (India), Amrita
University (India), and the Sci-Tech consultancy firm Sapienza

WINSOC started
in September 2006 and will run till the end of February 2009. WINSOC first results have been obtained and reported in journals as
IEEE Signal Proc. Magazine and IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
among others as well as in conferences—the papers, deliverables and
other informative material can be downloaded from the project website



Maria Angeles
Grado Caffaro
is WINSOC Exploitation
& Dissemination Manager.



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