Sun SPOTs Promise Pervasive Java
Programmable devices, sensors pave the way
January 25, 2008 —
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SANTA CLARA, CALIF. The engineers at Sun Microsystems see a future in which mobile applications will include numerous links to real-world sensors and devices.
During the two-day Java Mobile and Embedded Developer Days event at the companys campus here, Sun and its partners explored the future of mobile and embedded devices, and the topics generally assumed more physical functionality down the road. The event kicked off with a discussion of Java ME security, and then moved on to the utilization of Bluetooth APIs in embedded devices. GPS receivers, wireless detection systems, RFID and the creation of impromptu mesh networks with mobile devices were also on the agenda. In the afternoon of the first day, Sun SPOTs, the companys answer to pervasive computing, became all the rage.
The device's longer monikerSun Small Programmable Object Technologysheds light on what Sun's embedded gurus see as the application development of tomorrow. That future belongs to things, rather than numbers, concepts or transactions. Supporting that theory, Sun's SPOTs are tiny bundles of circuits and sensors designed to monitor real-world activity with Java.
Arshan Poursohi, a developer at Sun, said that SPOTs are unique because they run Java on the bare metal. Having a high-level language, as opposed to assembly or C, lets you pick up code and run with it. You can do in weeks what might have taken months before, he added.
Currently, Sun has made the devices available only in the United States, but the company's data center in a shipping container hardware solution is sometimes sold with modified Sun SPOTsused to monitor temperature and moisture inside those massive black boxes. Now that SPOTs have been in the wild for more than a year, Roger Meike, senior director of Sun Labs, discussed some of the ways that Java is making them shine.
Meike described numerous experiments that Sun SPOT users have undertaken since the devices were introduced. One fellow used the technology to control a treat dispenser in his home. When he wanted to see his dog through the Web camera, he would trigger the SPOT through the Web to open the treat door, drawing his Boston Terrier into the room and into the camera's view.