FUN Research team
The Internet of Things is a large concept with multiple definitions. However, the main concepts are the same in every vision and could be summed up as follows: Imagine a world where every object has the capacity to communicate with its environment. Everything can be both analogue and digitally approached - reformulates our relationship with objects - things - as well as the objects themselves. Any object relates not only to you, but also to other objects, relations or values in a database. In this world, you are no longer alone, anywhere. (Internet of Things council).
Future Ubiquitous Networks (FUN) are part of the Internet of Things. They are composed of tens to thousands heterogeneous hardware-constrained devices that interact with our environment and the physical world. These devices have limited resources in terms of storage and computing capacities and energy. They communicate through unreliable and unpredictable short-range wireless links and run on batteries that are not envisaged to be changed in current systems since generally deployed in hostile environments. Providing FUNs with energy saving protocols is thus a key issue. Due to these specific features, any centralized control is not conceivable, the new generation of FUNs must be autonomous, be self-organized and dynamically adapt to their environment. The devices that compose CPNs can be sensors, small robots, RFID readers or tags.
Objects or things can now communicate with their environment through the use for instance of an RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tag that provides them a unique identifier (ID) and a way to communicate through radio waves.
In the case of a simple passive RFID tag, the thing only embeds a tag equipped with an antenna and some memory. To communicate, it needs to be powered by the electromagnetic field of an RFID reader. This reader may then broadcast the information read on tag over a network.
When this tag is equipped with a battery, it is now able to communicate with nearby things similar to itself that may relay its message. Tags can also be equipped with additional capacity and sensors (for light, temperature, etc...). The Internet of Things can thus now refer to a wireless sensor network in which each sensor sends the data it collects over its environment and then sends it to a sink, i.e. a special sensor node able to analyze those data. In every case, RFID tags or sensor nodes can be moved unexpectedly like hold by moving things or animals. We speak then about 'undergone mobility'.
So far, things can thus communicate information about their environment. But when the capacity of sensors is extended even further, they can also act on their environment (for instance, the detection of an event (fire) may trigger an action like switching the light or fire hoses on). Sensor nodes become actuators. When this extended capacity is the faculty to move, actuators are also referred as actors or robots. In this latter case, the mobility is computed on purpose, we then speak about 'controlled mobility'. Actuators are not moved but move by themselves.
The FUN research group aims to focus on self-organizing techniques for these heterogeneous Future Ubiquitous Networks (FUNs). FUNs need various self-organization techniques to work properly. Self-organization encompasses neighbor discovery (which what other devices a sensor/actuator can communicate directly?), communication, self-deployment, self-localization, activity scheduling (when to wake up, when to send data to save energy without being detrimental to the well behavior of the network, etc)...
Solutions provided by FUN should facilitate the use of FUNs and rub away heterogeneity and difficulties. These techniques should be scalable, energy-aware, standard-compliant, should manage undergone mobility and take advantage of controlled mobility when available .
Solutions provided by FUN will consider vagaries of the realistic wireless environment by integrating cross-layer techniques in their design.
To date, many self-organizing techniques for wireless sensor networks and mobile ad hoc networks arise in the literature and also from the FUN research group. Some of them are very efficient for routing , , discovering neighborhood , , scheduling activity and coverage , localizing , , etc. Nevertheless, to the best of our knowledge, most of them have not been validated by experimentation, only by simulation and thus cannot consider the real impact of the wireless links and real node mobility in different environments. In addition, some of them rely on assumptions that are known not to be true in realistic networks such as the fact that the transmission range of a node is a perfect disk. Other may perform well only when nodes are static. None of them considers to take advantage of controlled mobility to enhance performances. Similarly, many propositions arise regarding self-organization in RFID networks, mainly at the middleware level , and at the MAC layer level . Although these latter propositions are generally experimented, they are validated only in static environments with very few tags and readers. To fit realistic features, such algorithms should also be evaluated with regards to scalability and mobility.
RFID and sensor/actor technologies have not been merged. Though, RFID readers may now be mobile and communicate in a wireless peer-to-peer manner either with other RFID readers or wireless sensor nodes and all belong to the same network. This implies a study of the standards to allow inter-dependencies in a transparent manner. Although such works have been initiated inside EPC Global working groups, research actions remain scarce.
FUN research group aims at filling this scientific gap by proposing self-stabilizing solutions, considering vagaries of wireless links, node mobility and heterogeneity of nodes in compliance with current standards. Validation by experimentation is mandatory to prove the effectiveness of proposed techniques in realistic environments.
FUN will investigate new protocols and communication paradigms that allow the transparent merging of technologies. Objects and events might interconnect while respecting on-going standards and building an autonomic and smart network while being compliant with hardware resources and environment. FUN expects to rub away the difficulty of use and programmability of such networks by unifying the different technologies. In addition, FUN does not only expect to validate the proposed solutions through experimentation but also to learn from these experiments and from the observation of the impact of the wireless environment to take these features into consideration in the design of future solutions.