Internet Controller Concept
For many years all the nodes of the Internet were computers. Then in recent years mobile phones and web pads were added, connecting an ever increasing part of the global population. That will not be the limit, however. The future growth of the number of nodes will come mostly from other kinds of devices, and they are expected to reach quantities of 15 billon units in 2015 and 50 billion in 2020. This is the Internet of Things.
This is the reason why the Internet Protocol had to be upgraded. With the new version the number of possible nodes increases. Its order of magnitude changes from that of the number of possible operators, to billions of billions more than the number of sand grains on earth. Anything can therefore have its own unique Internet address.
A typical node can be a temperature sensor in a building – or an actuator in a zone damper or a temperature setting dial in the same building – or a hotel door lock, or a weather station or traffic light or surveillance camera or an electronic billboard, a cash register, a parking meter, vending machine, ATM, gasoline pump,…
The network connection could be direct, wired to a phone line with DSL or wireless using a mobile phone 3G or 4G network. It could alternatively be indirect, using a gateway. In that case the data transfer between node and gateway can use wired connection or low power local ISM radio, not necessarily using the Internet protocol
The nodes and gateways are not computers, and often the main part of their software complexity is in the communication. If they have resources for that – which is similar for most of them – then those resources are often sufficient to also handle the specific application code for the device. That can, however, be very different for different devices, and much less suitable for standardization than the communication is.
The market develops at tremendous speed. Hardware integration increases – increasing complexity but packaged into fewer components. The development work for the device suppliers tends to shift from mainly hardware to more software development. There are more developers that can produce software than those that can design electronics and logic circuits, and software development can also be cheaper and quicker, especially since there is open software available. Thus, there is increasing competitive pressure, and increasing pressure on minimizing time-to-market.
Therefore, there is an increasing need for a general-purpose internet controller solution, which takes care of the communication and offers an easy-to-use environment for application software. Using Java is more productive and reliable than using C or C++, and there are script languages with interpreters in Java, which can can further increase the simplicity and reliability of the application development.
Imsys offers such a solution. The hardware consists of a compact computer module with a set of commonly used interfaces. Bundled firmware contains the Java environment (JVM), which encapsulates RTOS, file system, TCP/IP protocol (i.e. the application developer doesn’t see these and doesn’t need to know about them). Performance is sufficient for most applications, and the energy efficiency is high. The system is also programmable in C, and then has exceptional code density (similar to Java).