The Emergence of a Networking Primitive in Wireless Sensor Networks

TitleThe Emergence of a Networking Primitive in Wireless Sensor Networks
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsLevis, P., Brewer E., Culler D. E., Gay D., Madden S., Patel N., Polastre J., Shenker S., Szewczyk R., & Woo A.
Published inCommunications of the ACM
Other Numbers3470

The wireless sensor network community approached networkingabstractions as an open question, allowing answersto emerge with time and experience. The Trickle algorithmhas become a basic mechanism used in numerous protocolsand systems. Trickle brings nodes to eventual consistencyquickly and efficiently while remaining remarkablyrobust to variations in network density, topology, and dynamics.Instead of flooding a network with packets, Trickleuses a “polite gossip” policy to control send rates so eachnode hears just enough packets to stay consistent. Thissimple mechanism enables Trickle to scale to 1000-foldchanges in network density, reach consistency in seconds,and require only a few bytes of state yet impose a maintenancecost of a few sends an hour. Originally designed fordisseminating new code, experience has shown Trickle tohave much broader applicability, including route maintenanceand neighbor discovery. This paper provides an overviewof the research challenges wireless sensor networksface, describes the Trickle algorithm, and outlines severalways it is used today.


This work was supported, in part, by the Defense DepartmentAdvanced Research Projects Agency (grants F33615-01-C-1895 and N6601-99-2-8913), the National ScienceFoundation (grants No. 0122599, IIS-033017, 0615308, and0627126), by the California MICRO program, Intel Corporation,DoCoMo Capital, Foundation Capital, and a byStanford Terman Fellowship. Research infrastructure wasprovided by the National Science Foundation (grants No.9802069).

Bibliographic Notes

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 51, Issue 7, pp. 99-106

Abbreviated Authors

P. Levis, E. Brewer, D. Culler, D. Gay, S. Madden, N. Patel, J. Polastre, S. Shenker, R. Szewczyk, and A. Woo

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Article in journal or magazine