For wireless networks that share time-sensitive information on the fly, it's not enough to transmit data quickly. Those data also need to be fresh. Consider the many sensors in your car. While it may take less than a second for most sensors to transmit a data packet to a central processor, the age of that data may vary, depending on how frequently a sensor is relaying readings. In an ideal network, these sensors should be able to transmit updates constantly, providing the freshest, most current status for every measurable feature, from tire pressure to the proximity of obstacles. But there's only so many data that a wireless channel can transmit without completely overwhelming the network. How, then, can a constantly updating network of sensors, drones or data-sharing vehicles minimize the age of the information that it receives at any moment, while at the same time avoiding data congestion? National Science Foundation funded engineers are tackling this question and have come up with a way to provide the freshest possible data for a simple wireless network. The researchers say their method may be applied to simple networks, such as multiple drones that transmit position coordinates to a single control station, or sensors in an industrial plant that relay status updates to a central monitor. Eventually, the team hopes to tackle even more complex systems, such as networks of vehicles that wirelessly share traffic data.
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