Trickle: A Self-Regulating Algorithm for Code Propagation and Maintenance in Wireless Sensor Networks

Abstract: 

We present Trickle, an algorithm for propagating and maintaining code updates in wireless sensor networks. Borrowing techniques from the epidemic/gossip, scalable multicast, and wireless broadcast literature, Trickle uses a "polite gossip" policy, where motes periodically broadcast a code summary to local neighbors but stay quiet if they have recently heard a summary identical to theirs. When a mote hears an older summary than its own, it broadcasts an update. Instead of flooding a network with packets, the algorithm controls the send rate so each mote hears a small trickle of packets, just enough to stay up to date. We show that with this simple mechanism, Trickle can scale to thousand-fold changes in network density, propagate new code in the order of seconds, and impose a maintenance cost on the order of a few sends an hour.