A wireless sensor network (WSN) consists of spatially distributedautonomous sensors to cooperatively monitor physical or environmental conditions, such as temperature,sound, vibration, pressure, motion or pollutants. The development of wireless sensor networks was motivated by military applications such as battlefield surveillance. They are now used in many industrial and civilian application areas, including industrial process monitoring and control, machine health monitoring, environment and habitat monitoring, healthcare applications, home automation, and traffic control.
In addition to one or more sensors, each node in a sensor network is typically equipped with a radio transceiveror other wireless communications device, a small microcontroller, and an energy source, usually a battery. Asensor node might vary in size from that of a shoebox down to the size of a grain of dust,although functioning “motes” of genuine microscopic dimensions have yet to be created. The cost of sensor nodes is similarly variable, ranging from hundreds of dollars to a few pennies, depending on the size of the sensor network and the complexity required of individual sensor nodes. Size and cost constraints on sensor nodes result in corresponding constraints on resources such as energy, memory, computational speed and bandwidth.
A sensor network normally constitutes a wireless ad-hoc network, meaning that each sensor supports a multi-hop routing algorithm (several nodes may forward data packets to the base station).
In computer science and telecommunications, wireless sensor networks are an active research area with numerous workshops and conferences arranged each year.