Mobile Emulab: A Robotic Wireless and Sensor Network Testbed

David Johnson, Tim Stack, Russ Fish, Daniel Montrallo Flickinger, Leigh Stoller, Robert Ricci, Jay Lepreau

University of Utah

January 2006


Simulation has been the dominant research methodology in wireless and sensor networking. When mobility is added, real-world experimentation is especially rare. However, it is becoming clear that simulation models do not sufficiently capture radio and sensor irregularity in a complex, real-world environment, especially indoors. Unfortunately, the high labor and equipment costs of truly mobile experimental infrastructure present high barriers to such experimentation.

We describe our experience in creating a testbed to lower those barriers. We have extended the Emulab network testbed software to provide the first remotely-accessible mobile wireless and sensor testbed. Robots carry motes and single board computers through a fixed indoor field of sensor-equipped motes, all running the user's selected software. In real-time, interactively or driven by a script, remote users can position the robots, control all the computers and network interfaces, run arbitrary programs, and log data. Our mobile testbed provides simple path planning, a vision-based tracking system accurate to 1 cm, live maps, and webcams. Precise positioning and automation allow quick and painless evaluation of location and mobility effects on wireless protocols, location algorithms, and sensor-driven applications. The system is robust enough that it is deployed for public use.

We present the design and implementation of our mobile testbed, evaluate key aspects of its performance, and describe a few experiments demonstrating its generality and power.

In Proceedings of the 25th Conference on Computer Communications (IEEE INFOCOM 2006), April 2006

The slides from the INFOCOM talk:

David Johnson <>
Last modified: Thu Apr 27 16:49:19 MDT 2006