Data MULEs: Modeling and analysis of a three-tier architecture for sparse sensor networks

Rahul C. Shah, Sumit Roy, Sushant Jain, Waylon Brunette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

570 Scopus citations


This paper presents and analyzes a three-tier architecture for collecting sensor data in sparse sensor networks. Our approach exploits the presence of mobile entities (called MULEs) present in the environment. When in close range, MULEs pick up data from the sensors, buffer it, and deliver it to wired access points. This can lead to substantial power savings at the sensors as they only have to transmit over a short-range. This paper focuses on a simple analytical model for understanding performance as system parameters are scaled. Our model assumes a two-dimensional random walk for mobility and incorporates key system variables such as number of MULEs, sensors and access points. The performance metrics observed are the data success rate (the fraction of generated data that reaches the access points), latency and the required buffer capacities on the sensors and the MULEs. The modeling and simulation results can be used for further analysis and provide certain guidelines for deployment of such systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-233
Number of pages19
JournalAd Hoc Networks
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy efficient
  • Mobility
  • Random walk
  • Sensor network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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