In an effort to push Java into new applications, Sun Microsystems is preparing to launch a special version of the programming language designed for wireless sensors.
A key element is the Java 2 Micro Edition software running on a virtual machine, which effectively allows the software to function as the device's operating system. It also lets developers craft new drivers in Java to add functions to a sensor.
The complexity of the software powering current generation sensors makes it hard for researchers to add functions, according to Roger Roger Meike, a senior research director at Sun Labs.
"Java is very accessible in terms of its flexibility and ease of programming. There are a lot of people who are Java programmers who are not embedded systems programmers," he told vnunet.com.
"For anyone who is familiar with Java, we can teach them how to program in Spot in one hour and let them go off and build a robot or something. That isn't something you could normally do with the types of tools available today."
A Sun Spot development kit with two wireless sensors, a base station and the JavaBeans development software is scheduled for availability in May at $499. The official unveiling is scheduled for later this week at Sun's 2006 Worldwide Education & Research Conference.
The kit is targeted at researchers and hobbyists, and Sun plans to take a laid back approach to see what applications evolve.
Meike cited one example at Volkswagen where researchers created a prototype of a sensor network in which a vehicle performed a safety check of the home before the owner drove off.
The system used the sensors to check whether any gas or electrical appliances had been left on, and then offered to remotely switch off the appliances if necessary.
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