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Embedded, Everywhere: A Research Agenda for Networked Systems of Embedded Computers
The use of EmNets throughout society could well dwarf previous milestones in the information revolution. The effects of Moore’s law1 and related trends in computing and communications are making all of this possible. Ongoing work in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will enable sensing and actuation on the scale of a nanometer. The possibilities for miniaturization extend into all aspects of life, and the potential for embedding computing and communications technology quite literally everywhere is becoming a reality. IT will eventually become an invisible component of almost everything in everyone’s surroundings.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT EMNETS?
EmNets are more than simply the next step in the evolution of the personal computer or the Internet. Building on developments in both areas, EmNets will also be operating under a set of constraints that will demand more than merely incremental improvements to more traditional networking and information technology. EmNets will tend to be tightly coupled to the physical world. Unlike a desktop computer, which is itself a piece of office furniture, EmNets will be integrated into furniture and other objects in the environment. Individuals will interact with the objects and devices of which EmNets are a part, but it is unlikely that they will think of it as interacting with a computer system. A complex, networked, computational system will often be invisible when things are working properly.
EmNet components will also be highly resource constrained. In contrast to the Internet, which still consists primarily of tethered devices, EmNet components are likely to be small, untethered devices operating under physical constraints such as limited energy and the need for adequate heat dissipation. EmNets will also be constrained by bandwidth and memory limitations.
In addition to the physically coupled, resource-constrained nature of these systems, another constraint on EmNets is the fact that often they will be integrated into objects or systems that are likely to last for long periods of time. EmNets in buildings, bridges, vehicles, and so on will be expected to last as long as the objects in which they are embedded. This expectation of longevity will need to be taken into account when designing, deploying, and managing these systems. A further constraint is the
Moore’s law refers to the observation by Gordon Moore in 1965 that each new microprocessor contains roughly twice as much capacity as its predecessor, and each chip is usually released within 18 to 24 months of the previous chip. As this trend has continued, computing power has risen exponentially.