Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Low-power embedded device and software platform for augmentation of artefacts with sensing and networking

TecO's Smart-Its P is a tiny hardware/software platform for rapid prototyping of networked Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing environments, for Ad-Hoc (Sensor) Networks, Wearable Computers, Home Automation and Ambient Intelligence Environments. The platform consists of ready-to-run hardware components, software applications and libraries for the hardware and a set of development tools for rapid prototyping. The platform was especially designed for long-term, unsupervised operation of such devices, ease of development and embedding in tiny spaces.

Smart-Its P addresses basic problems that arise when building systems with computers integrated into (everyday) objects and environments. This particular platform was designed following study of users of such systems. The target developer skill-set therefore varies, in that the devices can be used and configured by non-experts with very limited programming expertise, as well as experts of embedded systems, who possess the knowledge of extending the hardware and/or software of these systems. Developers not familiar with embedded systems, hardware, low-level or network programming are still facilitated with a set of utilities and tools for creating Ubicomp artefacts, embedded wireless sensor nodes and other related technology components.

These tools include the following features:
- Ready-to-run set of hardware components coming with embedded software that can be used without any knowledge of hardware or low-level software.

- Modular hardware design that still enables the developers to change hardware.

- Integration hardware that allows users and developers to access embedded devices from the Internet.

- Additional hardware modules that can be used for further custom hardware development.

- Software that allows writing Smart-Its P programs for the embedded devices or for PC based services in various languages (C, Java, Delphi).

- Tools to control supervise and configure the Particle hardware.

- Tools to support development including tools to program and configure Smart-Its-P remotely over the Internet.

- Services for simplest access to Smart-Its P output as sensor and context information through querying a database or using the data in programs as Excel or Matlab.

Various versions of the Smart-Its P hardware are designed throughout the project. All of them share characteristics such as ultra low power consumption (<30mW max at full operation, some µW to 1mW in average), mechanical robustness and high number of I/O lines. They differ in size (from 15x25mm to 45x27mm) and available resources (from 1.5k Data and 32k Program to 129k Data and 128k Program RAM) but share the same operating system, development environment, programming languages etc. For separation of concerns, Smart-Its P hardware is split into two modules: The communication part and the sensor/actuator part. Both parts share a standard interface connector that enables developers to extend the system with own sensors, actuators, resources (e.g. additional memory) or more computing power. On the software level the operating system shields the developer from system details.

The communication board can be used either by application developers without knowledge of embedded system technology by using the operating system’s high-level API or by experts. Experts have access to system functionality - especially the communication - down to the RF physical layer. For example, field strength control or transceiver modes that can be adjusted by software while running the protocol enable the testing of new physical layer or Link Layer protocols without the need for assembling hardware. Various sensor boards provide different kind of sensors and actuators including acceleration, audio, light, temperature, force/pressure etc. Additional boards provide standard interfaces for additional sensors and serial lines for attaching the system to other type of computers. Development support hardware includes power supply hardware and test-boards for simple functionality test.

The software consists of a small but powerful OS that provides a very simple to use driver concept and APIs for accessing sensor, actuator and network functionality.

Developers can either program application programs and download these wirelessly to the devices or write services, that run on dedicated times on the embedded system. Standard services of the operating system are:
- Time Server: synchronizes time within a network with a maximum deviation of 4µs.

- Download Service: for installing new services and programs wirelessly on the device and several services to compute context information from sensor values. Several standard applications are provided as well, providing a base functionality platform that can be reused in various projects.

The platform is now in use by several developers all over the world, mainly in Europe but also including the U.S. and Japan, and is integrated in upcoming research and development project.

Reported by

University of Karlsruhe
Vincenz-Priessnitz-Str. 1
76131 Karlsruhe
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