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A Reliability Analysis for Wireless Sensor Networks

in a Wind Farm

Cristian Vasar,
Octavian Prostean,
Ioan Filip, Dan Popescu
Raul Robu Department of Mathematics,
Department of Automation and Applied Informatics, Politehnica University from Timisoara,
Politehnica University from Timisoara, Timisoara, Romania
Timisoara, Romania

Abstract— The paper proposes Markov models for the reliability frame of the design process of a wind farm, there must be
analysis of the wireless sensor networks with standby backup assess technical issues such as: components reliability, grid
elements. There are presented the theoretical aspects and some of connection, ground conditions etc which may affect the
the variables that are used in the domain of fault tolerant development and implementation of wind farms. [1]
systems. There has been conducted a study regarding the
reliability of system versus cost price, considering different In the design algorithm of a wind farm, an important stage
number of hot redundant spare parts. Reliability evaluation is represented by the study of components reliability. The
techniques are important in the context of design and analysis of sensor reliability presents, in this case, a significant
sensitive information gathering sensor networks importance, but at the same time the problem can be solved by
using redundancy. The advantages are evident, avoiding a
Keywords-Reliability, Markov model, fault tolerant sensor possible damage of the windmill and optimizing the generation
network. of renewable energy. The large dimensions of the wind farm
wide impose the usages of a redundant sensor network,
I. INTRODUCTION distributed on a wide area, and obviously communication using
radio and not wires.
A wireless sensor network (WSN) is a set of spatially
distributed autonomous unwired sensors (devices) powered In industrial process monitoring, it is very important to
with battery and equipped with integrated sensors, data distinguish between a sensor failure and a system failure
processing capabilities and short-range radio communication proactive condition monitoring of a wind farm. The sensor
that jointly monitor physical or environmental conditions, such validation framework is designed for monitoring complex
as: temperature, sound, pressure, motion, etc at different site equipment systems; this is achieved by validating the sensor
locations. WSNs are commonly used for monitoring and data, associating a degree of validity with each measurement,
detection of significant events in different environments, on identifying faulty sensors and detecting incipient sensor
large areas. Each sensor collects information from the failures. The methodology uses information from a sensor
surrounding environment, performs basic processing and individually, information from the sensor as part of a group of
transmits the data to the user using the network infrastructure. sensors, sensor properties and attributes and the immediate
history of the process that is being monitored.
Wireless sensor networks can be used both for determining
the environmental conditions (especially for a wind farm, Sensors are susceptible to a wide variety of failures, from
determining the wind speed, essential for maintaining the possible hardware or software malfunctions under normal
turbines in optimal parameters and respective a maximum situations, to those caused by severe weather conditions or
efficiency of the energy generation), and for monitoring of a other harsh physical environment in the sensor field. Therefore,
normal functioning of the wind turbine in order to avoid there is associated a non-negligible failure probability to every
possible damages under harsh conditions or their malfunction. type of sensor and it is essential to build a fault tolerant WSN
In the respect of this idea, one of the weak points of the that is able to continuously provide yielded services regardless
considered system could be sensor malfunction itself that stops of sensor failures. [2]
providing information or provide inaccurate information. The
main objective for a wind farm designer is to maximize the WSN failures can be classified in node and network
energy harvested within the bounds places on it by constraints, failures. A sensor node failure can occur due to component
such as environmental, financial and technical issues. In the wear-out, power failure or depletion, and natural catastrophes.

978-1-4244-4221-8/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE

The network can fail due to collision, interference and Usually, the failure rate for various components is
jamming. [3] determined from handbook data, on-site failure-rate data, or
WSN needs to perform, in a timely manner, under life test data provided by component manufacturers. The WSN
interferences, attacks, accident and failures in hostile overall reliability is superior since a large part of the
environments while strong resource constraints in the sensor constituent components are microelectronics circuits that have
node make conventional protection mechanisms, which are a very low failure rate.
applicable to traditional network and information system, Thus in most situations the modeling of the lifetime
infeasible. [4] span of the components is performed by using the monotonous
hazard rate (gamma, Weitbull), generally, in the case of
II. RELIABILITY AND MEAN-TIME-TO-FAIL modeling of the life time cycle of an industrial product, there
can be noticed three distinctive phases, in which the failure
Different models on achieving fault tolerance are rate presents an different behavior. Therefore, in the first
considered assuming that only one failure occurs at a time and running phase – in the start-up period, there can be noticed a
the failure of the components are independent. This is not a
higher failure rate, that decreases whilst the product is
very restrictive assumption since two failures that occur in the
operating. This is the case of normal functioning period – the
same moment can be considered to occur consecutively. There
are circumstances that are fault dependent: power fluctuations, maturity period, characterized mainly by the low value of the
temperature variations, etc, but we assume that any two faults failure rate function, and finally afterwards the product out
are independent. Therefore it can be stated that any two events reaches the nominal functioning time period – at the ageing
are disjoint in term of probabilities. period, the product presents an increased value of the failure
rate function. [8] In this case, the model has the shape depicted
One significant quality issue that should be nowadays taken in Figure 1 and is referred in technical literature as “bath-tube”
into consideration in developing wireless sensor networks type model[9][10]
applications is the ‘reliability’ of application services. The
specific characteristics and constraints of WSNs require a
different and adapted interpretation of this factor when
developing applications for such networks. Reliability is
defined as the probability that the system functions properly
and continuously in the interval [0,τ], assuming that it was Failure
operational at time 0. [5] rate

Taking into consideration that any wireless sensor network

Early Constant Failures Wear-out
is functional at t=0, and If the system fails at moment t=Tf failures failures
0 Time
⎧1, if 0 ≤ t < T f
R(t) = ⎨ (1) Figure 1. Failure rate
⎩ 0, if t ≥ T f Sometimes, the complete information on failure behavior is
not needed and it is more suitable to characterize a failure
WSNs should present reliability differentiation to sustain
model or set of failure data by using only a single parameter.
different reliability degrees in order to suit the requirements of
Thus, the reliability can be represented by the mean time to
different applications regarding throughput, latency and
failure (MTTF) rather than the more detailed reliability
energy consumption. [6]
function. A point estimate (MTTF) is given as a substitute for
The Markov model for reliability of a system is based on
the complete time function, R(t). If there is available
two concepts: the possible states of the system, and the
information on a population of n items with failure times t1,
transitions between the states. The failed state is annotated as
t2,... , tn, then the MTTF is defined by the following equation:
F. The reliability of the system is defined to be as its
probability to be in any other state except F; it is the
1 n
probability of being in any state other than F (which is the sum
of the probabilities of each state), or 1 – probability of the
MTTF = ∑ti
n i =1
system to be in the F state.
The failure rate is defined as the number of failures per Considering hazard models for errors and the fact that the
time unit [7]: mean value of a probability function is given by the expected
value (denoted with E(t)) of the random variable, defined over
dR(t) the range a < t ≤ b with density function f (t), MTTF is given
by the integral of the product of the random variable (time to
λ = dt (2) failure) and its density function. Considering the time range
R(t) from 0 to infinity, performing mathematical manipulation
involving the integration by parts technique leads to a simpler N
expression [11]:
b ∞
Where l = ∑n + k .
i =1

MTTF = E (t ) = ∫ t ⋅ f (t ) dt = ∫ R (t ) dt (4) Considering the initial conditions given by:

a 0
P0 (0) = 1, P1 (0) = ... = Pk (0) = Pk +1 (0) = 0 .
The system can be solved using Laplace transform, and
III. MARKOV MODELS FOR NETWORK provide the following solutions:
P0 ( s ) =
The considered WSNs, consists of N different types of s + lλ
sensors, and k universal standby redundant elements that can
instantly replace any type of elements that are defective. They
are considered to be hot-spares, and they can replace without lλP0 ( s )
P1 ( s) =
delay the failed element. After the spares swap a module, it has s + (l − 1)λ
the same failure rate as the replaced module. In order to
achieve a better reliability of the whole system, one solution is # (6)
to improve the quality of the components or another one is to (l − k + 1)λPk −1 ( s)
increase the number of available spares. Pk ( s) =
s + (l − k )λ
Taking into account the uncertainty that characterize a
system failure, it is convenient to use probabilistic techniques (l − k )λPk ( s)
to model the deterioration, considered as a discrete time Pk +1 ( s ) =
stochastic process. s
In Figure 2 there is depicted the Markov model for a WSN
which leads to the expression:
consisting of ni sensor of type Ti where i=1…N, and k
universal standby redundant elements (denoted with R) that can
instantly replace any type of elements that are defective. l (l − 1)(l − 2).......(l − k + 1)(l − k )λk +1
Pk +1 ( s ) = (7)
Σniλi+ H
Σniλi+ Σniλi+ H0 Σniλi F s( s + lλ )( s + (l − 1)λ )............( s + (l − k )λ )
Σni Σni Σni FAIL
kR +kλ R (k-1)R +(k-1)λR +λR
To compute the inverse Laplace transformation of Pk +1 ( s ) it
Figure 2. Markov model for N types of sensors with k spares
is very convenient to use the calculus of residues, which leads
In order to determine the corresponding reliability function, to:
it is considered, for the sake of simplicity, that all components
have the same failure rate λ ( λi = λR = λ , for i =1...N). Pk +1 (t ) = ∑ Res{Pk +1 ( s )e st , ak }
k =1
Considering the finite set of the (k+2) possible mutually-
exclusive states {Hk , Hk −1,...,H1 , H0 , F} , the probability where ak k = 1, nres are the poles of equation (7). [12]
distribution over these states, for the above Markov model, is For a simple pole ak the corresponding residue is given by
given by the vector
the relation:
P (t ) = [ P0 (t ), P1 (t ), P2 (t ),..., Pk (t ), Pk +1 (t )] .
Res{Pk +1 ( s )e st , ak } = lim ( s − ak ) Pk +1 ( s )e st (9)
s → ak
The differential equations system that describes the model
from Figure 1 is:
using (8) and (9) results:
⎛ P0 ⎞ ⎛−lλ 0 0 # 0 0 0⎞⎛ P0 ⎞
⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟ Pk+1(t) = lim(s − 0)Pk+1 (s)est + ∑lim(s − si )Pk+1 (s)est (10)
⎜ P1 ⎟ ⎜ lλ −(l −1)λ 0 # 0 0 0⎟⎜ P1 ⎟ s→0

d⎜⎜ P2 ⎟⎟ ⎜⎜ 0 (l −1)λ −(l −2)λ # 0 0 0⎟⎜ # ⎟

⎟⎜ ⎟ (5)
= where si = −(l − i )λ , i = 0...k so:
dt⎜ # ⎟ ⎜ # # # # # # #⎟⎜ # ⎟
⎜P ⎟ ⎜ ⎜ ⎟
⎜ k⎟ ⎜0 0 0 # (l −k+1)λ −(l −k)λ 0⎟⎟⎜ Pk ⎟ Pk+1(t) =1+
⎜P ⎟ ⎜ 0 0 0 # 0 (l −k)λ 0⎟⎠⎜⎝Pk+1⎟⎠
⎝ k+1⎠ ⎝ k
l(l −1)(l − 2)...(l − i +1)(l − i −1)...(l − k) −(l−i)λt (11)
+ ∑(−1)i+1 e
i=0 (1⋅ 2⋅ ...⋅ i) ⋅ (1⋅ 2⋅ ...k − i)
and using reliability definition R(t ) = 1 − Pk +1 (t ) results k=8 k=7
k ∏(l − j) k=6

R(t) = ∑(−1)k−i
e−(l−i)λt (12) k=3
i=0 (l − i) ⋅ (k − i)!⋅ i! k=4

Considering that the Laplace transformation of o function f(t), k=2

defined for any real number t ≥ 0, is the function F(s), defined
by: k=1

F ( s ) = L { f (t )} = ∫ f (t )e −st dt (13)

taking into consideration (4) results that MTTF can be

rewritten as:
Figure 3. Reliability values for k dedicated spares

MTTF = ∫ R (t )dt = R * ( s ) s =0 (14) The same WSN structure was considered to compute the
values of MTTF (measured in seconds), but the number of
universal standby spares used was varied from 0 to 100 spares.
where R * ( s ) is the Laplace image of function R (t ) .
The corresponding value of the MTTF is depicted in Figure
As a result, the network mean time to failure is given by: 4. Like in the previous figure, it can be noticed the benefit of
using additional spares over the network overall lifetime.
1 1
MTTF = ⋅∑ (15)
λ N
i =0
j =0
j +i


The simulation study was performed to investigate the
influence of the number of redundant spares on the overall
reliability of the network.
It was considered a wireless sensor network constituted
from 90 sensors of different type. Each considered type
contains 9 sensors. The number of redundant hot spares was
varied from 1 to 8. Also it was considered the case of a
network without redundant spares.
Figure 4. MTTF values for a WSN with different number of spares
All network components, both active and spares, are in the
maturity period, and the failure rate is constant, equal with 5 Considering the fact that all components have the same
failures at 106 seconds. This is a not restrictive since in wind unitary cost (u.c.) it can be calculated the cost indicators
farms, due to the large areas covered, is recommended to avoid presented in Table 1: Efficiency ratio and the Relative gain
the usage of components that exceeds their nominal lifetime, or coefficient.
components that did not pass a minimal burn-in process.
Efficiency ratio is computed as the MTTF divided by the
The resulted reliability curves for the considered cases are total cost of the network.
depicted in Figure 3.
Relative gain coefficient of the considered network is
There can be concluded that the higher number of defined as its efficiency ratio divided by the value of the
redundant hot spares are used the overall reliability function is efficiency ratio corresponding to the case of “no redundancy”.
TABLE I. MTTF AND COST INDICATORS the wind farm overall efficiency and to minimize the losses due
Indicator MTTF Efficiency Relative gain to usage of low reliability components.
Mode [105 s] ratio coefficient
No spares 0.222
u.c. 0.002466667 1
1 spare 0.4420
u.c. 0.004857143 1.969111969
2 spares 0.6594
u.c. 0.007167391 2.905699177
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