Clock synchronization is a crucial service in many distributed systems, including wireless ad-hoc networks. This paper studies external clock synchronization, in which nodes should bring their clocks close to the value of some external reference time, which is provided in the system by one or more source clocks.
Reference broadcast synchronization (RBS) is a known approach that exploits the broadcast nature of wireless networks for a single hop. However, when networks are large in physical extent, additional mechanisms must be employed.
Using multi-hop algorithms that re-broadcast time information to short distances reduces the energy consumed for clock synchronization. The reason is that energy costs grow more than linearly with the broadcast distance. On the other hand, the quality of the clock synchronization, as measured in the closeness of the clocks, deteriorates as the number of hops increases.
This paper shows how to balance these two contradictory goals, achieving optimal clock synchronization while adhering to an energy budget at each node. In particular, a distributed algorithm is presented that uses multi-hop broadcasting over a shallow infrastructure to synchronize the clocks. The closeness of clock synchronization achieved by the algorithm is proved to be optimal for the given energy constraints.