Within the economic sector ‘Transport and Logistics’, there is an increasing need for intelligent networks monitoring status and transportation of goods. To realize this, the use of ‘sensor networks’ has been proposed: sensor nodes are attached to products, pallets and/or containers, monitoring environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity) and location. The sensor nodes form a mesh network through which a single node can send information to a central facility. To gear the introduction of these types of networks, some requirements need to be fulfilled:
- The network should extract energy for processing and communication from its environment (energy harvesting where no battery replacements are needed). This limits the power budget for a complete sensor node to about 100 μW, whereas typically sensor nodes currently consume significantly more than 1 mW;
- The network should be robust and be able to operate in harsh environments (avoid “loosing goods”). Given the limited power budget which typically asks for on/off duty-cycling, this is a challenging requirement;
- No human operator is actively involved in tracking the flow of goods.
To address these challenging requirements, we want to do cross-layer research, to explore and optimally combine solutions at different hierarchical levels. The tough energy consumption and robustness requirements will guide the research, and we aim at realizing self-supporting networks, working on the following topics:
- Low power robust modulation techniques;
- Ultra low power radio transmitters and receivers
- Techniques to synchronize the on/off duty cycles of transmitters and receivers within the network;
- Analog/digital co-design to optimally trade-off analog and digital processing;
- Implementation of a power-aware MAC- and network layer platform.