The Computational Power of Beeps

In this paper, we study the quantity of computational resources (state machine states and/or probabilistic transition precision) needed to solve specific problems in a single hop network where nodes communicate using only beeps. We begin by focusing on randomized leader election. We prove a lower bound on the states required to solve this problem with a given error bound, probability precision, and (when relevant) network size lower bound. We then show the bound tight with a matching upper bound. Noting that our optimal upper bound is slow, we describe two faster algorithms that trade some state optimality to gain efficiency. We then turn our attention to more general classes of problems by proving that once you have enough states to solve leader election with a given error bound, you have (within constant factors) enough states to simulate correctly, with this same error bound, a logspace TM with a constant number of unary input tapes: allowing you to solve a large and expressive set of problems. These results identify a key simplicity threshold beyond which useful distributed computation is possible in the beeping model.

Comments: Extended abstract to appear in the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2015)

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