Modern devices and appliances are literally riddled with embedded sensors, from the relatively simple devices that make your microwave turn off, to the electronics that control the braking in your car.
These systems are often designed for a specific task, but their functionality – sensing a sudden deceleration for example – could be used in other ways, and in cooperation with other sensors, to create totally new applications.
There is a problem, however. Embedded sensors are complicated, and difficult to access and control.
Now European researchers in the EMMA project have developed a new middleware platform, called EM2P, that takes the difficultly out of developing new applications for existing embedded sensors. It acts as an interface between designers and the electronics.
One of the key advantages of the EM2P platform is that it works on a concept of cooperating objects, so it is able to communicate at very different levels within a traffic system using the same level of abstraction.
So it can work in-car, where FIAT used EM2P to study the potential for a system that senses the performance of each engine cylinder and gives the driver a real-time update on engine performance.
But it could also work between cars – opening the prospect of cooperating cars – and, of course, it can work with traffic infrastructure like lights, warning signs, and other signalling information. All of this via the same middleware platform.
Moreover, EM2P is able to support different physical communication technologies, which allows for interoperability and greater flexibility of applications. So even if the project’s wireless hardware does not become standard, the platform is still relevant.
TheEMMA project set out to develop proof-of-concept demonstrators to show that the middleware works. And it worked very well. A modified car, equipped with EMMA’s wireless system, informed London’s traffic infrastructure of any obstacles sensed by the car’s radar. This shows that the tools now exist to easily design new applications from existing embedded electronics, and apart from the host of applications it offers in traffic management, it could also be applied to any embedded electronics system.
The project is also part of a broader effort to develop wireless ‘cooperating objects’, and EMMA’s work contributes to research in the European CONET network. EMMA will, itself, continue working in a new project, called PECES, where it will further refine the EM2P concept.