A. Elsts, S. Duquennoy, X. Fafoutis, G. Oikonomou, R. Piechocki, I. Craddock, "Microsecond-Accuracy Time Synchronization Using the IEEE 802.15.4 TSCH Protocol", in Proc. International Workshop on Practical Issues in Building Sensor Network Applications (IEEE SenseApp 2016), 2016
Time-Slotted Channel Hopping from the IEEE 802.15.4-2015 standard requires that network nodes are tightly time-synchronized. Existing implementations of TSCH on embedded hardware are characterized by tens-of-microseconds large synchronization errors; higher synchronization accuracy would enable reduction of idle listening time on receivers, in this way decreasing the energy required to run TSCH. For some applications, it would also allow to replace dedicated time synchronization mechanisms with TSCH. We show that time synchronization errors in the existing TSCH implementations on embedded hardware are caused primarily by imprecise clock drift estimations, rather than by real unpredictable drift variance. By estimating clock drift more precisely and by applying adaptive time compensation on each node in the network, we achieve microsecond accuracy time synchronization on point-to-point links and a <2 microsecond end-to-end error in a 7-node line topology. Our solution is implemented in the Contiki operating system and tested on Texas Instruments CC2650-based nodes, equipped with common off-the-shelf hardware clock sources (20 ppm drift). Our implementation uses only standard TSCH control messages and is able to keep radio duty cycle below 1\%.
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