Skip to main content

Volume 3 Supplement 1

Special Issue on the Future of Middleware (FOME'11)

  • SI: FOME - The Future of Middleware
  • Open access
  • Published:

Middleware for wireless sensor networks: an outlook


In modern distributed computing, applications are rarely built directly atop operating system facilities, e.g., sockets. Higher-level middleware abstractions and systems are often employed to simplify the programmer’s chore or to achieve interoperability. In contrast, real-world wireless sensor network (WSN) applications are almost always developed by relying directly on the operating system.

Why is this the case? Does it make sense to include a middleware layer in the design of WSNs? And, if so, is it the same kind of software system as in traditional distributed computing? What are the fundamental concepts, reasonable assumptions, and key criteria guiding its design? What are the main open research challenges, and the potential pitfalls? Most importantly, is it worth pursuing research in this field?

This paper provides a (biased) answer to these and other research questions, preceded by a brief account on the state of the art in the field.


  1. Akyildiz I, Su W, Sankarasubramaniam Y, Cayirci E (2002) A survey on sensor networks. IEEE Commun Mag 40(8)

  2. Brouwers N, Langendoen K, Corke P (2009) Darjeeling, a feature-rich VM for the resource poor. In: Proc of the 7th conf on embedded networked sensor systems (SENSYS)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Business Process Management Initiative:

  4. Ceriotti M, Corrà M, D’Orazio L, Doriguzzi R, Facchin D, Guna S, Jesi G, Lo Cigno R, Mottola L, Murphy A, Pescalli M, Picco GP, Pregnolato D, Torghele C (2011) Is there light at the ends of the tunnel? Wireless sensor networks for adaptive lighting in road tunnels. In: Proc of the 10th int conf on information processing in sensor networks (IPSN)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ceriotti M, Mottola L, Picco GP, Murphy AL, Guna S, Corrà M, Pozzi M, Zonta D, Zanon P (2009) Monitoring heritage buildings with wireless sensor networks: The Torre Aquila deployment. In: Proc of the 8th int conf on information processing in sensor networks (IPSN)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chatzigiannakis I, Mylonas G, Nikoletseas S (2007) 50 ways to build your application: A survey of middleware and systems for wireless sensor networks. In: Proc of the int conf on emerging technologies and factory automation (ETFA)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Choi JI, Kazandjieva M, Jain M, Levis P (2009) The case for a network protocol isolation layer. In: Proc of the 7th conf on embedded networked sensor systems (SENSYS)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Costa P, Coulson G, Gold R, Lad M, Mascolo C, Mottola L, Picco GP, Sivaharan T, Weerasinghe N, Zachariadis S (2007) The RUNES middleware for networked embedded systems and its application in a disaster management scenario. In: Proc of the 5th int conf on pervasive communications (PerCom)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Costa P, Mottola L, Murphy AL, Picco GP (2007) Programming wireless sensor networks with the TeenyLime middleware. In: Proc of the 8th ACM/USENIX int middleware conf

    Google Scholar 

  10. Henricksen K, Robinson R (2006) A survey of middleware for sensor networks: state-of-the-art and future directions. In: Proc of the 1st ACM int workshop on middleware for sensor networks (MidSens)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hill J, Culler D (2002) Mica: A wireless platform for deeply embedded networks. IEEE Micro 22

  12. Hill J, Szewczyk R, Woo A, Hollar S, Culler D, Pister K (2000) System architecture directions for networked sensors. In: Proc of the 9th int conf on architectural support for programming languages and operating systems (ASPLOS-IX)

    Google Scholar 

  13. IP for Smart Objects Alliance:

  14. Juang P, Oki H, Wang Y, Martonosi M, Peh LS, Rubenstein D (2002) Energy-efficient computing for wildlife tracking: Design tradeoffs and early experiences with ZebraNet. SIGPLAN Not 37(10)

  15. Levis P, Madden S, Gay D, Polastre J, Szewczyk R, Woo A, Brewer E, Culler D (2004) The emergence of networking abstractions and techniques in TinyOS. In: Proc of 1st symp on networked system design and implementation (NSDI)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Liu T, Martonosi M (2003) Impala: A middleware system for managing autonomic, parallel sensor systems. In: Proc of the 9th symp on principles and practice of parallel programming

    Google Scholar 

  17. Madden S, Franklin MJ, Hellerstein JM, Hong W (2005) TinyDB: An acquisitional query processing system for sensor networks. ACM Trans Database Syst 30(1)

  18. makeSense—Easy Programming of Integrated Wireless Sensor Networks.

  19. Marrón PJ, Gauger M, Lachenmann A, Minder D, Saukh O, Rothermel K (2006) FlexCup: A flexible and efficient code update mechanism for sensor networks. In: Proc of the 3rd European workshop on wireless sensor networks (EWSN)

    Google Scholar 

  20. Mascolo C, Capra L, Emmerich W (2002) Mobile computing middleware. Advanced lectures on networking

    Book  Google Scholar 

  21. Mottola L, Picco GP (2011) Programming wireless sensor networks: Fundamental concepts and state of the art. ACM Comput Surv 43(11)

  22. Mottola L, Picco GP, Amjad A (2008) Fine-grained software reconfiguration in wireless sensor networks. In: Proc of 5th European conf on wireless sensor networks (EWSN)

    Google Scholar 

  23. Polastre J, Szewczyk R, Culler D (2005) Telos: enabling ultra-low power wireless research. In: Proc of the 5th int conf on information processing in sensor networks (IPSN)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Römer K (2004) Programming paradigms and middleware for sensor networks. In: GI/ITG workshop on sensor networks

    Google Scholar 

  25. Sugihara R, Gupta RK (2008) Programming models for sensor networks: A survey. ACM Trans Sens Netw 4(2)

  26. TinyOS TEP 126—CC2420 radio stack.

  27. TeenyLime Web site.

  28. Wang MM, Cao J, Li J, Das S (2008) Middleware for wireless sensor networks: A survey. J Comput Sci Technol 23(3):305–326

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. ZigBee Alliance:

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gian Pietro Picco.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mottola, L., Picco, G.P. Middleware for wireless sensor networks: an outlook. J Internet Serv Appl 3, 31–39 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: