New NSF grant to support research on resilient wireless sensor-actuator networks

Author: William G. Gilroy

Michael Lemmon Michael Lemmon

A new $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will support a team of University of Notre Dame researchers as they seek to develop resilient wireless sensor-actuator network technologies.

Wireless sensor-actuator networks (WSANs) are complex systems consisting of numerous sensing and actuation devices that interact with the environment and coordinate their activities over a wireless communication network.

“Examples of potential WSANs include the national power grid, air traffic control networks and water/gas distribution networks,” said Michael Lemmon, a Notre Dame professor of electrical engineering. “All of these systems are components of our national civil infrastructure, and their resilient operation is in the public’s interest.”

WSANs are “resilient” when they can identify catastrophic faults and take actions that quickly return the system to its normal operating state.

The projects team consists of Lemmon; J. Nicholas Laneman, an associate professor of electrical engineering and director of Notre Dame’s Wireless Institute; and Hai Lin, an assistant professor of electrical engineering.

“Building resilient wireless network systems is challenging due to the time-varying nature of these networks,” Lemmon said. “Temporal variations in a network’s quality of service introduce an unpredictability that is an obstacle to achieving resilient operation.”

The Notre Dame team believes it can overcome this obstacle through an approach that rests on two fundamental technologies.

One technology uses machine-to-machine (M2M) communication networks that promise wireless networking with greater peak bit-rates (or data transfer rates) and reliability than previously possible.

The other technology comes from recent ideas that reduce the bit rates needed by control applications through the use of quantized and event-triggered feedback.

“This project will evaluate and demonstrate this integrated control/communication approach to resilience on a multi-robotic testbed consisting of unmanned ground vehicles,” Lemmon said. “The testbed will integrate M2M communication hardware/software with a multi-robot control architecture addressing task coordination and platform stabilization.”

One practical outcome of the research would be that wireless industrial control systems could replace the current wired systems, thereby offering more flexibility and lower infrastructure costs and enhanced global competitiveness.

Contact: Michael D. Lemmon, 574-631-8309,