Microsecond-accuracy time synchronization using the IEEE 802.15.4 TSCH Protocol

Atis Elsts, Simon Duquennoy, Xenofon Fafoutis, George Oikonomou, Robert Piechocki, Ian Craddock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

30 Citations (Scopus)
463 Downloads (Pure)


Time-Slotted Channel Hopping from the IEEE 802.15.4-2015 standard requires that network nodes are tightly time-synchronized. Existing implementations of TSCH on embedded hardware are characterized by tens-of-microseconds large synchronization errors; higher synchronization accuracy would enable reduction of idle listening time on receivers, in this way decreasing the energy required to run TSCH. For some applications, it would also allow to replace dedicated time synchronization mechanisms with TSCH. We show that time synchronization errors in the existing TSCH implementations on embedded hardware are caused primarily by imprecise clock drift estimations, rather than by real unpredictable drift variance. By estimating clock drift more precisely and by applying adaptive time compensation on each node in the network, we achieve microsecond accuracy time synchronization on point-to-point links and a <2 microsecond end-to-end error in a 7-node line topology. Our solution is implemented in the Contiki operating system and tested on Texas Instruments CC2650-based nodes, equipped with common off-the-shelf hardware clock sources (20 ppm drift). Our implementation uses only standard TSCH control messages and is able to keep radio duty cycle below 1%.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2016 IEEE 41st Conference on Local Computer Networks Workshops (LCN Workshops 2016)
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of a meeting held 7-10 November 2016, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781509023479
ISBN (Print)9781509023486
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
EventEleventh IEEE International Workshop on Practical Issues in Building Sensor Network Applications - The Address Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 7 Nov 20167 Nov 2016


WorkshopEleventh IEEE International Workshop on Practical Issues in Building Sensor Network Applications
Abbreviated titleIEEE SenseApp 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates

Structured keywords

  • Digital Health


  • Digital Health


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