Distributed alarming in the on-duty and off-duty models

Marcin Bienkowski, Leszek Gasieniec, Marek Klonowski, Miroslaw Korzeniowski, Bernard Mans, Stefan Schmid, Roger Wattenhofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decentralized monitoring and alarming systems can be an attractive alternative to centralized architectures. Distributed sensor nodes (e.g., in the smart grid's distribution network) are closer to an observed event than a global and remote observer or controller. This improves the visibility and response time of the system. Moreover, in a distributed system, local problems may also be handled locally and without overloading the communication network. This paper studies alarming from a distributed computing perspective and for two fundamentally different scenarios: on-duty and off-duty. We model the alarming system as a sensor network consisting of a set of distributed nodes performing local measurements to sense events. In order to avoid false alarms, the sensor nodes cooperate and only escalate an event (i.e., raise an alarm) if the number of sensor nodes sensing an event exceeds a certain threshold. In the on-duty scenario, nodes not affected by the event can actively help in the communication process, while in the off-duty scenario, non-event nodes are inactive. We present and analyze algorithms that minimize the reaction time of the monitoring system while avoiding unnecessary message transmissions. We investigate time and message complexity tradeoffs in different settings, and also shed light on the optimality of our algorithms by deriving cost lower bounds for distributed alarming systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6918545
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Disaster detection
  • distributed algorithms
  • distributed coordination
  • neighborhood covers
  • output-sensitive algorithms
  • sensor networks


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