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A Random Access Protocol assisted by

Retransmission Diversity and Energy Reuse


Capabilities
Ramiro Samano-Robles
Instituto de Telecomunicaco es, Campus Universitario, Aveiro, 3810-193, Portugal.
emails:ramiro@av.it.pt

AbstractThis paper presents a random access protocol where


collisions are no longer regarded as a complete waste of network
resources. Induced collisions based on controlled retransmissions
can be used as a source of diversity to recover the contending
packets via source separation or MIMO (multiple-input multipleoutput) tools. This has been called network diversity multiple
access (NDMA), which has been shown to provide the highest
potential throughput in the literature. In addition to this, this
paper assumes that the requested retransmissions (or induced
collisions) of NDMA will be also used as a source of potential
energy to be harvested and reused by the remaining silent
terminals in the network. The objective of this paper is to
optimize both the network performance of the protocol as well
as the average energy harvested/reused per terminal. This goal is
achieved by means of the theory of multi-objective optimization.
The results indicate that NDMA protocols not only allow for large
values of packet throughput in comparison with conventional
random access protocols such as ALOHA, but also higher levels
of collected energy. It is also shown that retransmission diversity
allows for more flexible Pareto optimal trade-off between maximum throughput and maximum collected energy than in the case
of ALOHA-type algorithms.
Index TermsRetransmission diversity, random access, energy
harvesting.

I. I NTRODUCTION
A. Energy harvesting and wireless power transmission
International regulations are driving wireless network design
to a paradigm with low power consumption and low energy
radiation levels [1]. In addition, environmental protection
concerns have created the need for an energy-efficient management for reduction of CO2 emissions and for the use of
cleaner energy sources [2]. An attractive option to reduce
energy consumption in wireless networks is given by wireless
power transfer (WPT) (e.g. [3]) and energy harvesting/reuse
(e.g. [4]).
The origins of WPT and energy harvesting/reuse date back
to the first electromagnetic radiation experiments at the end
of the 19th and beginigns of the 20th centuries. An important
boost occurred in the 1940s thanks to the proposal of the first
radar and back-scattering transmission systems for friend-orfoe identification [5]. Recently, they have received increasing
attention thanks to the success of systems such as radio
frequency identification systems (RFID) [6]. In passive RFID,
the energy radiated by a reader or interrogator is used to
power-up a set of tags or transponders. Tags reuse the collected

energy to reply back to the interrogator side. Tags usually


reply with a simple message containing an identification string
and, in advanced applications such as in the Internet-of-Things
(IoT), added value sensor and security information can also
be included [6]. Recent developments suggest that the efficiency of energy harvesting/reuse and low power electronics
is reaching new levels at relatively low costs. This has opened
new and interesting research areas not only in the RFID
domain, but also in conventional wireless networks. Future
terminals will harvest as much as possible electromagnetic,
visible and mechanical energy to reduce power consumption
and consequently carbon emissions.
B. Open issues and paper contributions
Literature on WPT and passive RFID has been traditionally focused on physical (PHY) or simplistic medium access
control (MAC) layers. Higher interactions between PHY and
MAC layers, and a more detailed joint optimization of energy
harvesting and back-scattering processes are still required.
This paper attempts to help in filling this gap in the
literature. PHY-layer metrics related to the process of energy
harvesting/collection and energy reuse are explicitly incorporated in the MAC layer design of an NDMA (network diversity
multiple access) protocol [7], [8]. In NDMA, packet collisions
are no longer discarded as in conventional random access.
Instead, they are stored in memory for further processing.
In first instance, the collision signal is used to calculate the
collision multiplicity. Based on this information a number of
retransmissions (induced collisions) are requested from the
contending users to create a virtual full-rank MIMO (multipleinput multiple-output) system and thus resolve the collision
using multiuser detection tools. The NDMA protocol provides
a convenient setting to include innovative PHY-layer features
such as energy harvesting in MAC-PHY cross-layer design and
optimization. In this paper, silent (non-contending) terminals
are allowed to collect the energy radiated by contending
terminals of NDMA over a finite number of idle periods. The
collected energy is reused for the next packet transmission.
Therefore, packet collisions are no longer regarded exclusively
as a throughput degrading effect, as in conventional random
access, or as a source of controlled adaptive diversity as in
NDMA. They are now also a source of energy to be reused.
The objective is to investigate transmission policies that will

achieve either simultaneously or with a convenient trade-off


both maximum throughput (retransmission diversity -RD-) and
maximum collected energy (thanks to terminals with energy
harvesting capabilities). The challenge is thus two-fold:
1) Drive the network to a traffic load state that maximizes
throughput by controlling the number of collisions below
or near the allowed RD capability, and
2) Control the number of collisions so that idle terminals
maximize their collected energy.
A convenient trade-off must be therefore achieved that allows simultaneously for high levels of collected energy and
throughput. Too many collisions will reduce throughput but
will increase available energy. On the other hand, too many
collisions will also reduce idle periods and thus the time-slots
available for energy harvesting. Multi-objective optimization
and the concept of Pareto optimality are used here to resolve
the conflict when maximizing both metrics. A set of transmission policies is derived that optimize at least one of the
objective functions with a fixed trade-off performance with the
other metric. In technical terms, this is the Pareto optimal front
or the solution for which there is not other operational point
that provides a better trade-off [10]. The results indicate that
RD capabilities considerably help in achieving a reduced set of
Pareto optimal points, which means that maximum throughput
and maximum collected energy can be both simultaneously
achieved or have a more convenient trade-off. The results thus
shed light into the conflicts and benefits of using collisions in
a network as source of energy to be harvested versus the idle
periods that are used for terminals to harvest the energy of
collisions. Summarizing, the contributions of this paper are:
1) Study of an NDMA protocol where idle terminals collect and reuse the energy radiated by the contending
terminals.
2) Multi-objective optimization of the throughput and the
collected energy per terminal.
3) Derivation of the Pareto optimal trade-off solution between throughput and collected energy.
C. Previous works
Works on the PHY-layer of WPT and passive RFID can
be found in [3][6] and references therein. Design of MAC
layer for RFID has been largely studied in the literature,
for example in [9]. For a comprehensive overview of MAC
and MAC-PHY cross-layer schemes for RFID systems we
refer the reader to our previous works in [6]. The majority
of works on RFID focus on either up-link or down-link
analysis without paying much attention to the joint statistical
performance of tag detection and tag activation processes.
The works in [11] and [12] have partially addressed this
issue by proposing the cross-layer analysis and optimization
of multi-reader and multi-tag RFID networks with reader and
tag interference and with joint evaluation of tag detection and
tag activation processes. However, there are still many aspects
to understand and to analyze about the interactions and joint
statistical evaluation of networks where devices harvest and
reuse the energy radiated by other elements. The work in [12]
has demonstrated that tag activation statistics have a direct

impact on tag contention load and reception for the backscattering phase. Radio resource management and coordination
of networks with energy harvesting capabilities can be found
in [4]. The conventional approach is to consider that each
terminal has two buffers (see [13]), one for information and
another for the harvested energy. The harvested energy is
sometimes modeled as a random variable such as in [14], or
depends on the instantaneous power received by readers in an
RFID network such as in [12]. The optimization of the MAC
layer is then proposed under the assumption that terminals
must have enough energy for the transmission.
In comparison with this state of the art, our approach
considers that collisions in random access are not only a source
of throughput loss or a source os diversity as in NDMA,
but also a source of energy to be harvested. Furthermore,
only silent terminals are allowed to harvest energy, while the
collected energy depends on the number of collisions. To the
best of our knowledge, we present the first joint analysis of
the effects of retransmission diversity and energy harvesting
in the performance of random access. Finally, this work uses
multi-objective optimization to achieve Pareto optimality of
the average collected energy and the average throughput.
II. S YSTEM M ODEL AND P ROTOCOL D ESCRIPTION
Consider the slotted random access network depicted in
Fig. 1 with a set of J buffered users and one central node
or base station (BS). The channel between user j and the
the BS is denoted by hj . All channels are assumed to be
non-dispersive, block-fading and independently and identically
distributed (i.i.d.) with Rayleigh statistics: hj CN (0, a2 ).
The channel between user j and user k will be denoted by
hj,k .
Since NDMA exploits the time domain to create diversity,
the number of time-slots used to resolve any packet collision
will be a random variable that will be denoted here by l. The
period of time used to resolve a packet collision will be called
contention resolution period or epoch-slot (see Fig. 1). Silent
users in the network will listen to the transmissions of an
epoch to harvest as much energy as possible. For convenience
in the analysis, two types of epoch-slot are defined: a relevant
epoch, which is the epoch where a given user under analysis
participates by transmitting a packet, and an irrelevant epoch,
which is the epoch where a given user under analysis does
not participate (no packet transmission). Their lengths will be
denoted here by lr and lir , respectively. For example, in Fig.
1, the epoch is relevant to user 1 but irrelevant to user 2
A. Signal model for user detection
Each user of the network is pre-assigned with a unique orthogonal code with J symbols wj = [wj (0), . . . , wj (J 1)]T ,
where ()T is the vector transpose operator. This code, which
is attached as header of each packet transmission, will be used
for purposes of user detection and channel estimation [7]. The
orthogonality condition of the set of codes is given by:

J, k = j
T
wj wk =
,
(1)
0, k 6= j

Idle slot

Epoch slot or
collision resolution period
j=1
j=4

j=1
j=4

j=1
j=4

j=5

j=5

j=5

Idle slot

j=5

j=1

j=4

j=2

j=3

Fig. 1. Random access network assisted by retransmission diversity and


multi-packet reception.

The received signal header at the BS is the superposition of


all the headers of all the transmissions of the set of contending
users (denoted here by T ) during the first time-slot of an
epoch-slot:
X
y(h) =
hj wj + v(h) ,
(2)
jT
(h)

(h)

where v
= [v (0), . . . , v (h) (J 1)]T is the zero-mean
and circularly white complex Gaussian noise vector in the
received header. This means that v (h) (r) CN (0, v2 ), where
r {0, . . . , J 1}. The BS uses a matched-filter operation
(h)
(wjT ym ) to extract the detection statistics of user j:
zj = |wjT y(h) |.

(3)

The detection statistic zj for user j is then compared to a


detection threshold to decide whether user j is active or
not. If zj < then the user is detected as inactive: j 6 Tb ,
where Tb is the estimated set of contending users. Otherwise,
if zj > then the user is detected as active (j Tb ). Since this
detection process is prone to errors due to fading and noise,
two cases of potential active user detection can be identified:
1) user j can be correctly detected as active with probability
PD (probability of correct detection) provided the user has
transmitted a packet, and 2) user j is incorrectly detected
as active with probability PF (probability of false alarm)
provided the user did not transmit a packet. By detecting the
presence each one of the contending users, the BS can also
= |Tb | of the real collision multiplicity
have an estimation K
K = |T |, where || is the set cardinality operator when applied
to a set variable.
B. Protocol operation and signal model for RD
Terminals are assumed to always have a packet in buffer
ready to be transmitted (full buffer or dominant system model).
Whenever a terminals are allowed to transmit by the BS,
they proceed to do so at the beginning of an epoch-slot
using a Bernoulli random experiment with parameter p for

transmission control, where p is also the terminal transmission


probability.
At the beginning of every epoch-slot, the BS proceeds to
estimate the collision multiplicity as described in the previous
of
subsection. Once the BS has obtained an estimation K
the collision multiplicity K, then it proceeds to calculate the
number of retransmissions required to resolve the collision.
In conventional NDMA without multiple antennas, the number of transmissions (including the initial transmission plus
b This means that the
retransmissions) required is given by K.
number of diversity sources (time and space) must be greater
than or equal to the estimated collision multiplicity. In Fig. 1
we can observe one realizations of epoch, where three users
(1,4 and 5) have collided in the first time-slot. Since only one
receiving antenna is provided and three signals need to be
recovered, then only two more retransmissions are needed to
potentially resolve the collision. In this case, the number of
collected transmissions is equal to three, which is enough to
attempt the recovering of the three contending signals. Having
more diversity sources than contending signals is necessary to
ensure the channel matrix is full rank, which in turn improves
the probability of success of the source separation technique to
be used [7]. To request a retransmission for diversity purposes,
the BS simply indicates with a feedback flag at the end of
each time-slot to all the contending users that retransmission
is required in the next time slot. The feedback flag is kept on
until all necessary retransmissions have been collected. This
feedback channel is assumed to be ideal. All the collected
(re)transmissions are kept in memory to create a MIMO
system that can be expressed as follows [7]:
YKN
= AKK
b
b SKN + WKN
b ,

(4)

where Y is the array formed by the collection of all received


b time-slots of the epoch, A is the mixing
signals from all the K
matrix or MIMO channel, S is the array of stacked packets
from all the contending users, each one with N symbols, and
finally W is the collected Gaussian noise components. The
mixing matrix A can be estimated by using the outcome of
the matched filter operation from each antenna. The estimate
can be used to recover the contending packets using a zero
A
H Y, or a minimum mean
= (A
H A)
1 A
forcing equalizer:S

HA
+ v2 I)1 A
H Y,
square error (MMSE) receiver: S = (A

where the term S indicates the soft estimate of the contending


packets. This signal is then passed through a hard symbol
detection stage to try to obtain the original packets S [7].
To facilitate NDMA MAC-layer design, packet reception
performance is usually approximated by the outcome of the
collision multiplicity estimation [7]. If all the contending users
are correctly detected as active and none of the non-contending
uses are incorrectly detected as active (false alarm) then all
the packets are considered as correctly received by the BS.
Otherwise, in the case of any detection error all packets are
assumed to be lost in the collision resolution process. The BS
also indicates to all the contending users, by means of an ideal
feedback flag at the end of a resolution period, whether the
resolution process was successful or not. These protocol steps
are repeated for subsequent epoch-slots.

C. Energy harvesting signal model


In this paper we assume that silent terminals k 6 T (n)
collect the energy radiated by the remaining active terminals
in the network. The signal received by an idle terminal at the
nth time-slot can be written as:
X
rk (n) =
hj,k (n)xj (n) + vk (n), k 6 T (n). (5)
jT (n)

The average energy received during the nth time-slot is given


by:
sk (n) = E[rk (n)H rk (n)]
X
=
P |hj,k (n)|2 + v2 , k 6 T (n),
(6)

with J 2 a2 +Jv2 . This concludes the definition of the receiver


operational curve (ROC) of the user detector.
IV. P ERFORMANCE M ETRICS
A. Throughput
Throughput is defined as the long term ratio of correctly
decoded packets to the total number of time-slots used in the
measurement. In our setting this is equivalent to the ratio of the
average number of packets correctly transmitted per epoch-slot
to the average length of an epoch-slot, which can be written
as follows:
Ps
.
(10)
T =
E[l]

jT (n)

where E[] is the statistical average operator.


III. D ETECTOR PERFORMANCE MODEL
NDMA depends critically upon the performance of the
user detector [8]. This section deals the modeling of the user
detector in (3). This will be useful for subsequent calculations
and design of the MAC layer. The probability of false alarm of
a user that did not transmit a signal while still being detected
as active can be defined more formally as follows:
PF = Pr{zj > |j 6 T },

(7)

which is the probability that the detection statistic zj is above


the detection threshold , conditional on user j not being one
of the contending users. Since noise is Gaussian distributed,
the detection statistic zj in eq.(3), which consists of the
summation of 2 squared i.i.d. zero-mean gaussian signals, can
be easily proved to have for this particular case a central chisquare distribution with 2 degrees of freedom and parameter
Jv2 . The term Jv2 comes from the matched-filter operation
in (3), which combines J different noise signals (coming
from each one of the J symbols of the header). Therefore,
the probability of false alarm PF can be expressed as the
complementary cumulative distribution function (CCDF) of
the central chi-squared distribution with 2 degrees of freedom
[15]:
PF = e

2
Jv

(8)

Similarly, the probability of correct detection of user j, conditional on user j being one of the contending users, can be
defined as:
PD = Pr{zj > |j T }.
(9)
Since both channel and noise are Gaussian distributed, the detection statistic zj in eq.(3), which is given by the summation
of 2 squared i.i.d. zero-mean Gaussian signals, can also be
proved for this particular case a central chi-square distribution
with 2 degrees of freedom and parameter J 2 a2 + Jv2 . The
term J 2 a2 comes from the matched-filtering operation in (3),
which considers the channel term J times. The second term
Jv2 has the same explanation as in the case of the probability
of false alarm in eq.(7). Therefore, the probability of correct
detection PD is also given by the CCDF of the central chisquared distribution with 2M degrees of freedom. This means
that PD can be obtained by replacing in (8) the term Jv2

The throughput of NDMA is usually approximated by the


performance of the detector. The NDMA detector throughput,
defined as the ratio of the average number of contending users
per epoch with correct multiplicity estimation to the average
number of time-slots per epoch, can be expressed as follows
[8]:
JpPD (pPD + pPF )J1
(11)
Tdec =
J(pPD + pPF ) + (pPD + pPF )J
= 1(). For convenience in subsequent derivations,
where ()
the average length of an irrelevant epoch is given by [7] [8]:
E[lir ] = (J 1)((pPD + pPF )) + (pPD + pPF )J1 . (12)
B. Average collected energy
Terminals are assumed to collect the energy radiated by the
contending terminals in the network only when they are in
the silent state. This occurs at any time-slot with probability
p = 1 p. While being idle, the terminal is assumed to collect
the energy of the remaining terminals along a maximum of
M time slots. As soon as the terminal proceeds to transmit a
packet to the BS, all the collected energy during the previous
idle period is reused. The harvesting operation is restarted
when the terminal enters again in the idle state. Based on
these assumptions, the average energy collected per terminal
is defined as the ratio of average energy collected over all
possible realizations of idle periods used for harvesting, to the
average number of periods (idle and busy):
P

P
M 1
pm + M m=M pm En [sk (n)]E[lir ]
m=1 m
P
P
S=
m
m
m=1 p +
m=1 p
(13)
where En [sk (n)] is the average of the energy collected per
time-slot from (6) when the terminal is in the idle state:
En [sk (n)] = (J 1)pP + v2 .
PM 1 m
P
The term m=1 lp + M m=M pm accounts for the contribution of time-slots a terminal is in the harvesting
mode
P
m
(idle),
while
the
two
terms
in
the
denominator
p
and
m=1
P l
p

account,
respectively
for
the
average
number
of
busy
l=1
and idle periods. By noting that the following equalities hold
for finite geometric series:
!


M
1
M
1
X
X
d
d 1 pM
m
l
lp = p
p = p
d
p m=0
d
p
1 p
m=1

p M pM + (M 1)
pM +1
,
p2

pm =

m=M

pM
,
p

p 6= 0

p 6= 0,

(14)
(15)

and

X
m=1

pm =

p
,
p

and

pm =

m=1

p
,
p

p 6= 0,

(16)

then the expression in (13) becomes:


S = [(J 1)P p + v2 ]

p2 pM +2
,
p 2p
p + 2p
p2

p 6= 0.

(17)

V. O PTIMIZATION
This section deals with the derivation of a set of transmission policies popt that will achieve either simultaneously or
with a convenient trade-off both maximum throughput in (10)
and maximum collected energy in (17). The optimization of
multiple objective functions lies in the field of multi-criteria
or multi-objective optimization. In a multi-objective optimization problem, a global unique solution that simultaneously
optimizes all the involved objective function generally does
not exist, particularly when the objective functions have a
conflict. Instead, the concept of Pareto optimal is introduced.
A solution is Pareto optimal if it is optimum for at least
a subset of objective functions. The set of Pareto optimal
solutions defines a Pareto optimal trade-off curve or surface.
This curve or surface defines the boundary or envelope of the
trade-off performance region of the problem, which can also
be regarded as the set of points for which there is no other
better optimum solution for the subset of objective functions.
In our setting, the multi-objective optimization of throughput
and energy functions can be written as follows:

which shows the average collected energy per terminal versus


the transmission probability per terminal. It can be observed
that at low values of transmission probability the collected
energy tends to be small due to the low number of collisions,
particularly when the number of slots used for collision is low
M = 4. On the contrary, when the number of time-slots used
for collecting energy is high M = 40, even when the number
of collisions for energy harvesting is low, the collected energy
is dominated by the noise variance, which was set to v2 = 1.
In all cases, at high values of transmission probability, the idle
periods for each terminal to collect energy considerably reduce
and so it translates in a reduction of the collected energy.
The results of Fig. 4 show the trade-off between throughput
and average collected energy per terminal, as well as the
Pareto solution obtained from the multi-objective optimization
problem in scalarized form in (19). We can observe that
NDMA allows both for larger values of throughput and also
larger values of collected energy in both cases with M = 4
and M = 40. We can observe though, that at low values of
M , the ALOHA Pareto solution produces a better trade-off
between throughput and collected energy. On the contrary, at
high values of M , NDMA produces a Pareto trade-off front
curve that has a reduced range and therefore produces a better
trade-off between the two objective functions. This means
that throughput and collected energy are less competing and
their optimum solutions are not as dissociate as in the case
of ALOHA. NDMA is therefore a good candidate for the
reuse of the energy of collisions in random access networks.
The system gets a double benefit from collisions: diversity for
contention resolution, and energy harvesting.

0.6

0.5

which can be reformulated using the method of scalarization


as:
popt = arg max f = T + S, > 0
(19)

0.4

[T

S]

where is the scalar that measures the relative weight or


trade-off between throughput and energy objective functions.

Throughput (T)

(18)

popt = arg max

0.3

0.2

0.1

NDMA M= 4
NDMA M= 40
ALOHA M= 4
ALOHA M= 40

VI. R ESULTS
The results discussed in this section assume an average
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of P2 = 3dB. The number of
v
users is set to J = 10 and the maximum number of timeslots used for energy harvesting purposes is given by two
values M = 4 and M = 40. All the results include the
solution for the ALOHA Fig. 2 shows the performance of
throughput in packets per time-slot versus the transmission
probability. Note in first instance that the throughput of NDMA
i considerably higher that ALOHA, as expected. Also note
that there is no influence of the number of time-slots used for
energy collection on throughput performance, which is also
expected as the energy harvesting scheme is performed along
the idle slots for each terminal. This is different in Fig. 3,

0.0
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4
0.5 0.6
Tx probability(p)

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

Fig. 2. Throughput (T ) vs. transmission probability (p) for NDMA and


ALOHA random access protocols with SNR=6dB.

VII. C ONCLUSIONS
This paper has presented an NDMA protocol where idle
terminals are allowed to harvest the energy of the contending
users for a finite number of time-slots. Due to the particular
characteristics of NDMA, the proposed protocol allows for
a double use of collisions in random access networks: as a

R EFERENCES
[1]

Av erage energy collect ed per t erm inal (S)

40
35
30
25
20
15
10
NDMA M= 4
NDMA M= 40
ALOHA M= 4
ALOHA M= 40

5
0
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4
0.5 0.6
Tx probability(p)

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

Fig. 3.
Average collected energy per terminal (S) versus transmission
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0.6

NDMA M= 4
NDMA Pareto M= 4
NDMA M= 40
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Throughput (T)

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.1

0.0

Fig. 4.

10
15
20
25
30
Average energy collected per term inal (S)

35

40

Average collected energy per terminal (S) versus throughput (T ).

source of diversity for contention resolution, and as a source


of energy to be potentially harvested/reused by idle terminals.
The results indicate that NDMA not only provides with a
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time-slots used for energy harvesting was relatively lower. This
means that NDMA provides with a more flexible operation
of energy harvesting systems based on collisions in random
access networks when the harvesting and energy storage
capabilities of the terminals are relatively strong.

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