Super Edge Devices Coming
There’s a widespread belief that the next shift in the digital world will be towards pervasive computing. PCs will no longer drive networks and instead computers will be embedded into a wide range of devices. While there’s been serious talk of this development for 5 years or more, smaller and more powerful hardware devices and tighter and more capable software solutions are turning theory into reality. A central challenge to pervasive computing it that it demands unprecedented flexibility in terms of a device’s ability to communicate across the range of operating systems likely to be encountered in its environment. Then there’s the fact complex multi-platform smarts demand bigger power sources, as well as greater processing capabilities. What’s likely to drive the technology in the future is the ASAP Project, funded by the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies initiative. ASAP is striving to put together software solutions that are small enough and powerful enough to run on computers the size of AAA batteries. It’s a lack of compact yet capable software that has hamstrung the miniaturization of computers for so long. What ASAP and its team leader German Puebla have come up with is an open source programming, analysis and optimisation toolkit designed specifically for pervasive computing systems running on Constraint Logic Programming (CLP) languages. The great thing about high-level CLP languages is that they simplify programming and allow portability across a range of different platforms. There’s a problem though. Any software that is able to do more work is inherently bulky and slow. The solution until now has been to employ C programming languages which offer greater efficiency at the cost of limited complexity and flexibility. The ASAP’s high-level CLP toolkit, developed jointly by the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, and Roskilde University (RUC), is designed to use a tricked-up high-level declarative language called Ciao to slash resource consumption.“Software created with the toolkit is comparable in terms of resource demands to code written in C if it is designed to do the same thing. But Ciao programs can also do much more complex tasks, and with our toolkit it is feasible for them to run on pervasive systems,” Puebla explains. “Ciao is also much easierto use – programmers don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they need tocreate or adapt a program.”The self-tuning and resource-aware analysis and specialisation algorithms allow the CiaoPP toolkit to build specialised programs that are automatically optimised to handle environments that are lean on processing and resources. Puebla thinks that the future of pervasive computing is about 5 years away, and he says that future depends largely on continuing decreases in hardware costs. One thing is sure – there’s plenty of potential there. As part of ongoing studies,the University of Bristol has used the CiaoPP toolkit to develop a full computer the size of a stick of gum.Potential uses in the security industry include detectors with multiple sensing and reporting capabilities that might be incorporated not just into buildings but into clothing. There would also be significant scope for the use of CiaoPP optioned microcomputers to handle a wide range of home automation functions including lighting, heating and management and operation of electronic equipment. And with distributed computing there would no longer be any need for alarm panels – a power supply would suffice.