Ultra-low-power Computing for Wireless Sensor Networks


Project Goals and Outline

Wireless sensor networks are an emerging computing domain that promises to deeply impact the way computers and humans interact with our environment.  Applications range from long-term environmental and seismic monitoring, vehicle tracking, health-care, and business supply-chain management.  Given the lifetime, cost, and form-factor requirements for wireless sensor nodes, energy is usually the most important design constraint.  In this project, we seek to look beyond the capabilities of general-purpose commodity microcontrollers in order to reduce energy requirements by at least an order of magnitude.  In this context, we are developing architectures that are customized for the needs of wireless sensor networks and building prototypes of these architectures.


David Brooks

Gu-Yeon Wei



Mark Hempstead

Patrick Mauro

Nikhil Tripathi



This project is part of the larger Hourglass effort at Harvard University.



  • Mark Hempstead, Gu-Yeon Wei, and David Brooks. “System Design Considerations for Sensor Network Applications,”  International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS), Seattle, WA, May 2008.

  • Mark Hempstead, Michael J. Lyons, David Brooks and Gu-Yeon Wei.  “Survey of Hardware Systems for Wireless Sensor Networks,”  ASP Journal of Low Power Electronics, Vol. 4., No. 1, April 2008.

  • Mark Hempstead, Gu-Yeon Wei, and David Brooks. “Architecture and Circuit Techniques for Low Throughput, Energy Constrained Systems Across Technology Generations,” International Conference on Compilers, Architecture, and Synthesis for Embedded Systems (CASES-06), Seoul, Korea, October 2006. (pdf)

  • Mark Hempstead, Nikhil Tripathi, Patrick Mauro, Gu-Yeon Wei, and David Brooks, "An Ultra Low Power System Architecture for Wireless Sensor Network Applications," 32nd International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA-05), June 2005. (pdf)

  • Mark Hempstead, David Brooks, and Matt Welsh, "TinyBench: The Case For A Standardized Benchmark Suite for TinyOS Based Wireless Sensor Network Devices," First IEEE Workshop on Embedded Networked Sensors(EmNets'04), Tampa FL November 2004. (pdf)


Funding and Other Support

This research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0330244. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or any other sponsor.