15 December 2006

Cambridge SPA Meeting - Seeing SunSPOTs

On the 13th December I attended the Cambridge SPA meeting. Cambridge SPA is an offshoot (or part of) of the BCS and they hold monthly meetings for varied presentations about lots of aspects of computing. I decided to throw caution to the wind and see what it was like (after all it was free) and it was hosted at Microsoft Research Cambridge who generously provided the rooms and laid on a buffet.

This presentation was about SunSPOTs which are small programmable Java devices. It is defined as Java On The Metal since there is no operating system and Java does all of the control. When you tell Java to sleep() the device also sleeps and it is extremely power efficient. It uses the Squawk Java VM which provides a version of Java ME functionality. The device also has sensors built in like tilt and light sensors. It communicates wirelessly or by USB.

I got the impression that it still hasn't found its true purpose yet, but is proving that Java is a good solution for the embedded environment space. It also provides much better debugging facilities than traditional embedded environments. Still, all very interesting.

It was most interesting that my old haunt Essex University is using these devices. And it was one of my favourite masters courses that was using it The Intelligent Buildings Group. It was bizarre to hear this since when I read about the presentation initially I thought this would have been ideal for Intelligent Buildings studies at Essex Uni. When I did my dissertation there I was looking at the TINI Java embedded board for that although it didn't amount to a great deal in the end.

Still, I had a good time, met some people, got informed about an interesting subject, so all in all it was a good use of an evening.

If anyone lives near Cambridge and is interested in computing in general, I can recommend you check it out.