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Embedded, Everywhere: A Research Agenda for Networked Systems of Embedded Computers
The growing complexity of information technology systems will be accentuated by the evolution of EmNets. This complexity arises not only from the large number of components involved but also from the lack of determinism and the continual evolution such systems will undergo. Effort on the part of the whole community (industry and academia, as well as funding agencies) is necessary. While there are specific EmNet applications emerging from industry, they do not encompass the kinds of scalable, robust, physically coupled EmNets that are discussed throughout this report. In the absence of appropriate funding, issues such as adaptive self-configuration, predictability, and computational models will not be addressed in ways that will enable comprehensive understanding. This lack of understanding will result in a technology that is both prohibitively expensive and prohibitively brittle and will preclude the widespread adoption of EmNets as envisioned here.
The Internet has provided one of the first real examples of a large-scale, heterogeneous networked system. It serves as an excellent model for observation and provides some early indicators of the issues arising from the widespread deployment of EmNets that will need to be addressed.3 The Internet consists of millions of loosely interconnected components that generate communications traffic independently of one another. There has been standardization in the middle levels of communication protocols, but a wide variety of physical interconnections, from optical broadband to wireless, is supported. However, from the casual user’s perspective, the degree of interoperability has essentially been limited to what can be done through a Web browser. For the most part, the currency of the Internet has been in the realm of information. The connections between today’s various information services are only now starting to evolve into multilayered and richly connected ensembles.4 Connections to the physical world have been limited to basic sensors (for example, cameras and weather sensors) and very few actuators (for example, camera motors and home remote control).
As noted throughout this report, EmNets will build on the Internet
EmNets provide an excellent illustration of how computer science can benefit from interactions with sister engineering fields, which have long addressed conventional embedded systems.
For a discussion of Internet-specific issues, see the CSTB report The Internet’s Coming of Age (CSTB, 2001).
The automated shopping agents that query multiple vendors for the best price on a requested item exemplify this. They integrate information in different formats to yield an easy to understand comparison. Automatic purchasing systems are now being built on top of these basic services to trigger automatic purchases that will keep inventory at the specified levels.