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Route Or Flood? Reliable And Efficient Support For Downward Traffic In RPL

Timofei Istomin, Oana Iova, Gian Pietro Picco, Csaba Kiraly

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Modern protocols for wireless sensor networks efficiently support multi-hop upward traffic from many sensors to a collection point, a key functionality enabling monitoring applications. However, the ever-evolving scenarios involving low-power wireless devices increasingly require support also for downward traffic, e.g., enabling a controller to issue actuation commands based on the monitored data. The IETF Routing Protocol for Low-power and Lossy Networks (RPL) is among the few tackling both traffic patterns. Unfortunately, its support for downward traffic is significantly unreliable and inefficient compared to its upward counterpart. We tackle this problem by extending RPL with mechanisms inspired by opposed, yet complementary, principles. At one extreme, we retain the route-based operation of RPL and devise techniques allowed by the standard but commonly neglected by popular implementations. At the other extreme, we rely on flooding as the main networking primitive. Inspired by these principles, we define three base mechanisms, integrate them in a popular RPL implementation, analyze their individual and combined performance, and elicit the resulting tradeoffs in scalability, reliability, and energy consumption. The evaluation relies on simulation, using both real-world topologies from a smart city scenario and synthetic grid ones, as well as on testbed experiments validating our findings from simulation. Results show that the combination of all three mechanisms into a novel protocol, T-RPL (i) yields high reliability, close to the one of flooding, (ii) with a low energy consumption, similar to route-based approaches, and (iii) improves remarkably the scalability of RPL with respect to downward traffic.