Sun Microsystems Inc. handed sensor-driven computing to developers and educators when it launched Monday Project Sun SPOT, a battery operated platform to create wireless sensor networks, robotics and personal consumer electronics.
Powered by a Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME) virtual machine written almost entirely in Java, Project Sun SPOT provides a method to build Java-based sensor applications that run directly on the central processing unit (CPU) without an underlying operating system.
The battery-powered devices fit in the palm of the hand and relay data about temperature, sound, movement, light and other environments. Java programmers can now move beyond traditional development of keyboard, mouse and screen to build applications ranging from medical monitoring to package tracking to interactive home automation. "A university in Australia uses Sun SPOT for a class in robotics," said Roger Meike, senior director at Sun Labs. "Another group in Canada is building an underwater vehicle."
Traditional sensor networks also are possible, such as environmental monitoring to make sure the grapes are picked at the correct time. Sun SPOT also can augment package tracking. While radio frequency identification technology can ensure the package containing the organ transplant ships from Los Angeles to New York, a sensor can actively monitor the temperature to make sure the liver remained at the correct degrees.
The Sun Labs Project Sun SPOT technology evaluation kit when released in May will include three Sun SPOTs: two stand-alone 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, stepper motors and servos. The kit also includes a J2ME virtual machine, NetBeans 5.0 and a USB cable.