Sunday, March 05, 2006

Making device programming accessible

One of the advantages of Java is that "Java is very accessible in terms of its flexibility and ease of programming." says Roger Mite, a senior research director at Sun Labs. "There are a lot of people who are Java programmers who are not embedded systems programmers" (See "Sun pushes Java for sensor networks").

This is one of the major reasons for using Java in the project I'm involved with at my place of work. This (fairly large-scale) project is a control framework for large tools with lots of robotics, digital and analog devices and controllers. The goal for us was not just to make it possible to integrate any number of sensors and other hardware into this framework. That too, but we also had to consider how to scale for future developments -- and making things accessible for new folks is a good way to do that.

The Sun SPOT stuff is aimed to spark interest in realtime/control application development with the typical bussiness application developer community. The Sun SPOT team is about to release a evaluation kit for their technology, which includes three Sun SPOTs devices: two stand-alone sensor/actuator devices and one base station. All three Sun SPOTs include a processor board with 32-bit ARM9 CPU, 512 KB RAM and 4MB Flash memory, 2.4 GHz radio and USB interface. Each stand-alone Sun SPOT also includes a 3D accelerometer, temperature and light sensors, 8 tri-color light emitting diodes (LEDs), six analog inputs and 8 general purpose I/O ports for controlling relays and servos. It is said to cost $499.00 and to be available in May 2006.

The only gripe I have with it is the price: even though the components are probably worth it, I think it's a hard sell for someone who'd start to do some casual control hacking.


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