Wireless Sensor Networks: Past, Present and Future

Wendi Heinzelman
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Rochester


It is estimated that by the year 2010 more than 10 billion wireless sensors will be deployed for applications as diverse as environmental monitoring, agricultural monitoring, machine health monitoring, surveillance, and medical monitoring. These networks, which connect the physical world with the digital world, provide us with a richer understanding of our environment and with the ability to more accurately control our surroundings. However, there are many challenges that must be addressed before the full potential of these networks are realized. Wireless sensor networks must be reliable and scalable to support large numbers of unattended wireless sensors; they must last for extended periods of time using limited battery power; they must be secure against outside attacks on the network and on data fidelity; they must be accurate in providing required information while performing in-network processing to reduce data load; and they must interface with existing networks. In this talk, I will provide an overview of this exciting field of research, describing the history of research in wireless sensor networks, the current state-of-the-art and the directions in which the field of wireless sensor networking technology is headed. I will motivate the need for adaptive network management to best support dynamic application goals, and I will discuss some current research on energy efficient protocols and algorithms. To provide perspective, I will also describe many of the numerous open research questions that will provide ample opportunities for innovation in the years to come.


Wendi B. Heinzelman is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Rochester, and she holds a secondary appointment as an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Dr. Heinzelman also currently serves as Dean of Graduate Studies for Arts, Sciences and Engineering at the University of Rochester. Dr. Heinzelman received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 1995 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 1997 and 2000, respectively. Her current research interests lie in the areas of wireless communications and networking, mobile computing, and multimedia communication. Dr. Heinzelman received the NSF CAREER award in 2005 for her research on cross-layer architectures for wireless sensor networks, and she received the ONR Young Investigator Award in 2005 for her work on balancing resource utilization in wireless sensor networks. She is an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, and she is an Area Editor for ACM Mobile Computing and Communications Review (MC2R). Dr. Heinzelman is currently the Vice Chair for the Systems and Applications track for DCOSS 2009. She is a member of Sigma Xi and the ACM, she is a senior member of the IEEE, and she is co-founder of the N^2Women (Networking Networking Women) group.

Slides are available.

Colloquia Series page.