Impala: A middleware system for managing autonomic, parallel sensor systems

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55 Scopus citations


Sensor networks are long-running computer systems with many sensing/compute nodes working to gather information about their environment, process and fuse that information, and in some cases, actuate control mechanisms in response. Like traditional parallel systems, communication between nodes is of fundamental importance, but is typically accomplished via wireless transceivers. One further key attribute of sensor networks is that they are almost always long-running systems, intended to operate in situ, with minimal direct human intervention, for months or years. This requirement for long-running autonomy mandates careful design of the runtime system that manages applications on each node, to ensure reliability and ease of upgrades over the life of the system. This paper describes Impala, a middleware architecture that enables application modularity, adaptivity, and repair-ability in wireless sensor networks. Impala allows software updates to be received via the node's wireless transceiver and to be applied to the running system dynamically. In addition, Impala also provides an interface for on-the-fly application adaptation in order to improve the performance, energy-efficiency, and reliability of the software system. Impala has been designed to be a part of the ZebraNet mobile sensor network, but we are also prototyping it within HP/Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC handhelds. We present performance data for both real system measurements of the Pocket PC version as well as simulations of a full mobile sensor system deployment. Overall, Impala is a lightweight runtime system that can greatly improve system reliability, performance, and energy-efficiency. The ideas introduced here for sensor networks have applicability more broadly in other long-running autonomous parallel systems as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
JournalSIGPLAN Notices (ACM Special Interest Group on Programming Languages)
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


  • Middleware system
  • Sensor networks
  • Software adaptation
  • Software update


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