In wireless sensor networks (WSNs), communication links are typically error-prone and unreliable, so providing reliable and timely data routing for loss- and delay-sensitive applications in WSNs it is a challenge issue. Additionally, with specific thresholds in practical applications, the loss and delay sensitivity implies requirements for high reliability and low delay. Opportunistic Routing (OR) has been well studied in WSNs to improve reliability for error-prone and unreliable wireless communication links where the transmission power is assumed to be identical in the whole network. In this paper, a Cross-layer Optimized Opportunistic Routing (COOR) scheme is proposed to improve the communication link reliability and reduce delay for loss-and-delay sensitive WSNs. The main contribution of the COOR scheme is making full use of the remaining energy in networks to increase the transmission power of most nodes, which will provide a higher communication reliability or further transmission distance. Two optimization strategies referred to as COOR(R) and COOR(P) of the COOR scheme are proposed to improve network performance. In the case of increasing the transmission power, the COOR(R) strategy chooses a node that has a higher communication reliability with same distance in comparison to the traditional opportunistic routing when selecting the next hop candidate node. Since the reliability of data transmission is improved, the delay of the data reaching the sink is reduced by shortening the time of communication between candidate nodes. On the other hand, the COOR(P) strategy prefers a node that has the same communication reliability with longer distance. As a result, network performance can be improved for the following reasons: (a) the delay is reduced as fewer hops are needed while the packet reaches the sink in longer transmission distance circumstances; (b) the reliability can be improved since it is the product of the reliability of every hop of the routing path, and the count is reduced while the reliability of each hop is the same as the traditional method. After analyzing the energy consumption of the network in detail, the value of optimized transmission power in different areas is given. On the basis of a large number of experimental and theoretical analyses, the results show that the COOR scheme will increase communication reliability by 36.62–87.77%, decrease delay by 21.09–52.48%, and balance the energy consumption of 86.97% of the nodes in the WSNs.
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