Wireless sensor network (WSN) nodes are devices with limited power, and rational utilization of node energy and prolonging the network lifetime are the main objectives of the WSN’s routing protocol. However, irrational considerations of heterogeneity of node energy will lead to an energy imbalance between nodes in heterogeneous WSNs (HWSNs). Therefore, in this paper, a routing protocol for HWSNs based on the modified grey wolf optimizer (HMGWO) is proposed. First, the protocol selects the appropriate initial clusters by defining different fitness functions for heterogeneous energy nodes; the nodes’ fitness values are then calculated and treated as initial weights in the GWO. At the same time, the weights are dynamically updated according to the distance between the wolves and their prey and coefficient vectors to improve the GWO’s optimization ability and ensure the selection of the optimal cluster heads (CHs). The experimental results indicate that the network lifecycle of the HMGWO protocol improves by 55.7%, 31.9%, 46.3%, and 27.0%, respectively, compared with the stable election protocol (SEP), distributed energy-efficient clustering algorithm (DEEC), modified SEP (M-SEP), and fitness-value-based improved GWO (FIGWO) protocols. In terms of the power consumption and network throughput, the HMGWO is also superior to other protocols.
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