Approximate top-k queries in sensor networks

Boaz Patt-Shamir, Allon Shafrir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


We consider a distributed system where each node has a local count for each item (similar to elections where nodes are ballot boxes and items are candidates). A top-k query in such a system asks which are the k items whose sum of counts, across all nodes in the system, is the largest. In this paper we present a Monte-Carlo algorithm that outputs, with high probability, a set of k candidates which approximates the top-k items. The algorithm is motivated by sensor networks in that it focuses on reducing the individual communication complexity. In contrast to previous algorithms, the communication complexity depends only on the global scores and not on the partition of scores among nodes. If the number of nodes is large, our algorithm dramatically reduces the communication complexity when compared with deterministic algorithms. We show that the complexity of our algorithm is close to a lower bound on the cell-probe complexity of any non-interactive top-k approximation algorithm. We show that for some natural global distributions (such as the Geometric or Zipf distributions), our algorithm needs only polylogarithmic number of communication bits per node.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStructural Information and Communication Complexity - 13th International Colloquium, SIROCCO 2006, Proceedings
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)3540354743, 9783540354741
StatePublished - 2006
Event13th International Colloquium on Structural Information and Communication Complexity, SIROCCO 2006 - Chester, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20065 Jul 2006

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume4056 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference13th International Colloquium on Structural Information and Communication Complexity, SIROCCO 2006
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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