Communication cost of consensus for nodes with limited memory

Giulia Fanti, Nina Holden, Yuval Peres, Gireeja Ranade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivated by applications in wireless networks and the Internet of Things, we consider a model of n nodes trying to reach consensus with high probability on their majority bit. Each node i is assigned a bit at time 0 and is a finite automaton with m bits of memory (i.e., 2m states) and a Poisson clock. When the clock of i rings, i can choose to communicate and is then matched to a uniformly chosen node j. The nodes j and i may update their states based on the state of the other node. Previous work has focused on minimizing the time to consensus and the probability of error, while our goal is minimizing the number of communications. We show that, when m > 3 log log log(n), consensus can be reached with linear communication cost, but this is impossible if m < log log log(n). A key step is to distinguish when nodes can become aware of knowing the majority bit and stop communicating. We show that this is impossible if their memory is too low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5624-5630
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 17 2020


  • Communication
  • Consensus
  • Distributed computing
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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