Wireless sensor networks are a recently introduced category of ad hoc computer networks, which are comprised by nodes of small size and limited computing and energy resources. Such nodes are able of measuring physical properties such as temperature, humidity, etc., wireless communication between each other and in some cases interaction with their surrounding environments (through the use of electromechanical parts).
As these networks have begun to be widely available (in terms of cost and commercial hardware availability), their field of application and philosophy of use is constantly evolving. We have numerous examples of their applications, ranging from monitoring the biodiversity of a specific outdoor area to structural health monitoring of bridges, and also networks ranging from few tens of nodes to even thousands of nodes.
In this PhD thesis we investigated the following basic research lines related to wireless sensor networks:
a) their simulation,
b) the development of data propagation protocols suited to such networks and their evaluation through simulation,
c) the modelling of ``hostile'' circumstances (obstacles) during their operation and evaluation of their impact through simulation,
d) the development of a sensor network management application.
Regarding simulation, we initially placed an emphasis to issues such as the effective simulation of networks of several thousands of nodes, and in that respect we developed a network simulator (simDust), which is extendable through the addition of new data propagation protocols and visualization capabilities. This simulator was used to evaluate the performance of a number of characteristic data propagation protocols for wireless sensor networks. Furthermore, we developed a new protocol (VRTP) and evaluated its performance against other similar protocols. Our studies show that the new protocol, that uses dynamic changes of the transmission range of the network nodes, performs better in certain cases than other related protocols, especially in networks containing obstacles and in the case of non-homogeneous placement of nodes.
Moreover, we emphasized on the addition of ``realistic'' conditions to the simulation of such protocols, that have an adversarial effect on their operation. Our goal was to introduce a model for obstacles that adds little computational overhead to a simulator, and also study the effect of the inclusion of such a model on data propagation protocols that use geographic information (absolute or relative). Such protocols are relatively sensitive to dynamic topology changes and network conditions. Through our experiments, we show that the inclusion of obstacles during simulation can have a significant effect on these protocols.
Finally, regarding applications, we initially proposed an architecture (WebDust/ShareSense), for the management of such networks, that would provide basic capabilities of managing such networks and developing applications above it. Features that set it apart are the capability of managing multiple heterogeneous sensor networks, openess, the use of a peer-to-peer architecture for the interconnection of multiple sensor network. A large part of the proposed architecture was implemented, while the overall architecture was extended to also include additional visualization capabilities.