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‘Intelligent’ embedded devices will be driven by Java, say analysts

Elliot Bentley
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Two Oracle-sponsored white papers suggest that Java has a bright future on embedded and M2M devices.

The deluge of “intelligent” embedded devices, especially those incorporating machine-to-machine (M2M) aspects, will be driven by Java, according to two recent Oracle-commissioned white papers. For current M2M device users and manufacturers, the most recent white paper reports, the highest priorities are “ensuring end-to-end security, from the remote device through to the data center and the end user” and “integration with IT Systems”. The report, Designing an M2M Platform For The Connected World, was written by M2M research specialists Beecham Research and is drawn from the results of surveys and interviews with current M2M producers and users. Many of the authors’ conclusions reflect those of other industry members, particularly that he large amounts of data produced by these M2M devices will require storing and processing (thus contributing to the ‘big data’ phenomenon) and that integration with cloud-based services is “vitally important”. According to the report, 40% of M2M market players consider it to be a “major advantage” to use the same software development environment throughout an M2M-based system. Being an Oracle-sponsored the paper, the authors unsurprisingly continue: “For example, using Java at both ends could deliver a clean environment for an integrated medical devices and monitoring application.” However, another 35% of those surveyed said that a mixed environment provided “no advantage”. Another earlier paper, Ghost in the Machine: Java for Embedded Development, explores in more depth the role which Java is playing in embedded devices. As you might expect, it is highly confident about Java’s embedded future, concluding that “Java offers a set of choices suitable to a broad set of needs and a road map to further improve the productivity of the Java ecosystem”. The authors predict that increasing power in embedded devices and the coming modularisation of the JDK will see a shift away from Java ME to Java SE Embedded. While not an official line from Oracle, this might come as a surprise considering the release of Java ME Embedded 3.2 at JavaOne this year. But with Java ME soon converging with SE, it’s natural to assume that the main version of Java will soon see embedded devices as a priority. Not only will the software be changing, but the hardware too:
While traditional embedded systems will continue to grow, they are also evolving rapidly from fixed function and disconnected systems to more flexible and interconnected systems, which IDC calls intelligent systems.
These “intelligent” devices are driven by the trend towards data-gathering devices, automated appliances and increased use of tablets and smartphones. According to IDC data from 2011, revenue from these “intelligent” embedded systems revenue is growing by 19% annually and may reach $1.53 trillion by 2015. Intriguingly IDC predict the healthcare and energy sectors to “expected to outstrip all others” in rates of adoption. Those not versed is the history of Java may be surprised to learn, as the authors remind us, the language was “initially designed and conceived to run in embedded devices [and] was precisely focused on the portability and productivity problems faced by embedded developers”. While these two papers may not provide many new insights into the future of embedded and M2M devices, it does suggest that Oracle is taking this growing area increasingly seriously. Photo by Clive Darra.
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