31.12.05 - Efficient decentralized communications in sensor networks. Thèse EPFL, n° 2952 (2004). Dir.: Prof. M. Vetterli

Mr. Cristescu's thesis advances our understanding of communication networks by considering the dissemination of correlated data such as those from environmental sensors. The question of decentralized compression of correlated in this thesis recepient of previous attention ; the dissemination aspect considered in this thesis introduces new and interesting problems and insights as the nodes that perform the source coding become privy to the data observed at other nodes as they participate in the dissemination process. This is a remarkable thesis that distills an engineering problem to its essence, developing sound theory for a timely and important scenario.

Efficient decentralized communications in sensor networks

This thesis is concerned with problems in decentralized communication in large networks. Namely, we address the problems of joint rate allocation and transmission of data sources measured at nodes, and of controlling the multiple access of sources to a shared medium. In our study, we consider in particular the important case of a sensor network measuring correlated data.

In the first part of this thesis, we consider the problem of correlated data gathering by a network with a sink node and a tree communication structure, where the goal is to minimize the total transmission cost of transporting the information collected by the nodes, to the sink node. Two coding strategies are analyzed: a Slepian-Wolf model where optimal coding is complex and transmission optimization is simple, and a joint entropy coding model with explicit communication where coding is simple and transmission optimization is difficult. This problem requires a joint optimization of the rate allocation at the nodes and of the transmission structure. For the Slepian-Wolf setting, we derive a closed form solution and an efficient distributed approximation algorithm with a good performance. We generalize our results to the case of multiple sinks. For the explicit communication case, we prove that building an optimal data gathering tree is NP-complete and we propose various distributed approximation algorithms. We compare asymptotically, for dense networks, the total costs associated with Slepian-Wolf coding and explicit communication, by finding their corresponding scaling laws and analyzing the ratio of their respective costs. We argue that, for large networks and under certain conditions on the correlation structure, 'intelligent', but more complex Slepian-Wolf coding provides unbounded gains over the widely used straightforward approach of opportunistic aggregation and compression by explicit communication.

In the second part of this thesis, we consider a queuing problem in which the service rate of a queue is a function of a partially observed Markov chain, and in which the arrivals are controlled based on those partial observations so as to keep the system in a desirable mildly unstable regime. The optimal controller for this problem satisfies a separation property: we first compute a probability measure on the state space of the chain, namely the information state, then use this measure as the new state based on which to make control decisions. We give a formal description of the system considered and of its dynamics, we formalize and solve an optimal control problem, and we show numerical simulations to illustrate with concrete examples properties of the optimal control law. We show how the ergodic behavior of our queuing model is characterized by an invariant measure over all possible information states, and we construct that measure. Our results may be applied for designing efficient and stable algorithms for medium access control in multiple accessed systems, in particular for sensor networks.