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Error control is of significant importance for Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) because of their severe energy constraints and the low power communication requirements. In this paper, a cross-layer methodology for the analysis of error control schemes in WSNs is presented such that the effects of multi-hop routing and the broadcast nature of the wireless channel are investigated. More specifically, the cross-layer effects of routing, medium access, and physical layers are considered. This analysis enables a comprehensive comparison of forward error correction (FEC) codes, automatic repeat request (ARQ), and hybrid ARQ schemes in WSNs. The validation results show that the developed framework closely follows simulation results.
Hybrid ARQ and FEC schemes improve the error resiliency of communication compared to ARQ. In a multi-hop network, this improvement can be exploited by constructing longer hops (hop length extension), which can be achieved through channel-aware routing protocols, or by reducing the transmit power (transmit power control). The results of our analysis reveal that for hybrid ARQ schemes and certain FEC codes, the hop length extension decreases both the energy consumption and the end-to-end latency subject to a target packet error rate (PER) compared to ARQ. This decrease in end-to-end latency is crucial for delay sensitive, real-time applications, where both hybrid ARQ and FEC codes are strong candidates. We also show that the advantages of FEC codes are even more pronounced as the network density increases. On the other hand, transmit power control results in significant savings in energy consumption at the cost of increased latency for certain FEC codes. The results of our analysis also indicate the cases where ARQ outperforms FEC codes for various end-to-end distance and target PER values.