John Heidemann / Papers / Data Muling with Mobile Phones for Sensornets

Data Muling with Mobile Phones for Sensornets
Unkyu Park and John Heidemann
USC/Information Sciences Institute


Unkyu Park and John Heidemann. Data Muling with Mobile Phones for Sensornets. Technical Report ISI-TR-2011-673b. USC/Information Sciences Institute. [PDF] [alt PDF]


Sensors are all around us, in buildings, vehicles and public places, from commodity thermostats to custom sensornets. Yet today these sensors are often disconnected from the world, either because they are distant from infrastructure, and wide-area networking (by 3G cellular, satellite, or other approaches) is too expensive to justify. Data muling makes communication cost-effective by leveraging short-range wireless and mobility, perhaps by zebras, buses or farmworkers. In this paper we propose that \emphhuman-carried mobile phones can serve as data mules for sensornet deployments, exploiting ubiquity of mobile phones and human mobility to bring low-cost communication to sensors. We use two mobile phone datasets to show that Bluetooth can serve as a viable muling network, and humans already see many potential sensors regularly. We have implemented a mobile-phone-based data muling system, and used it in four sensornet deployments totaling ten months operation. We find that muling can be the only cost-effective option for rural deployments, where it is critical to monitoring remote sensor networks. We also show opportunistic mobility can collect data without any extra effort in residential and office environments. Finally, we systematically evaluate our deployments to understand how contact duration and data size interact, and to evaluate the effect of muling on phone batteries.

Bibtex Citation

  author = {Park, Unkyu and Heidemann, John},
  title = {Data Muling with Mobile Phones for Sensornets},
  institution = {USC/Information Sciences Institute},
  year = {2011},
  sortdate = {2011-07-01},
  project = {ilense, siss, cisoft},
  jsubject = {chronological},
  month = jul,
  number = {ISI-TR-2011-673b},
  location = {johnh: pafile},
  note = {This report was released in July and updated in August
                    with minor editorial changes.},
  keywords = {data muling, sensornet, cisoft, gps},
  url = {},
  pdfurl = {},
  myorganization = {USC/Information Sciences Institute},
  copyrightholder = {authors}
Copyright © by John Heidemann