TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

In a short time, TRON SHOW 2002 will begin. Among the exhibits on this occasion, it will be possible for everyone to lay their eyes on T-Engine, a new open hardware platform for embedded use.

At the end of 2001, the T-Engine Project, which is a new, concrete development in the TRON Project, was officially launched. ITRON, which is the first subproject of the TRON Project, is a project to develop a standard real-time operating system, and thanks to the efforts of all those involved, it became possible for this to become the standard real-time operating system in Japan. Without selecting a processor based on "weak standardization" as a characteristic and by porting it to all sorts of microprocessors, ITRON got many endorsements, and thus it obtained great results. On the other hand, "weak standardization" led to the creation of fine differences in the respective ITRON implementations, and the distribution of compatible software parts has been insufficient. Moreover, it has also been said that the development environment cannot be unified.

In the midst of an IT slump, it is now demanded that we raise productivity to further improve embedded software productivity also in support of the manufacturing industry.

The policy for breaking the deadlock is reducing the parts that one develops. We think that the most important thing is pushing forward with the distribution of reliable software parts that can be used in common on top of any processor.

In particular, there is a need to actively push forward with the distribution of middleware, which holds together the space between the kernel and the applications, as parts. Among middleware, we can think of various things, beginning with network protocol stacks, graphics, the user interface, kana-to-kanji conversion, power management, and various types of function libraries. If good quality parts of these types can be obtained and if it comes about that by combining these that all we have to do is merely write the logic for an application, then development will be speeded and system reliability will also rise.

For that reason, the T-Engine project was started. The project's base platform is T-Engine. The T-Engine board is a hardware board the size of a memo pad that centers around a CPU board to which various types of daughter boards are attached. Anyway, it's a small development platform. Using this, after development is completed we further proceed to make LSIs, so it's a standard platform for making things smaller. However, since it is so small, we can, of course, also use it as is as a final product. The physical shape and the location of the I/O connectors on the CPU board are standardized. Moreover, as for things that are used in common, such as the USB and serial ports and PCMCIA, we are carrying out standardization that has broken into areas such as deciding on things from the size to the attachment location of parts. However, regarding the expansion connector bus, because various uses can be conceived for it, we have not dared to standardize it. T-Monitor is monitoring software loaded onto the T-Engine ROM; T-Kernel is a µITRON-based real-time kernel for use in T-Engine that has been extended for Internet Appliances (IAs). We are planning to put effort into perfecting a development environment.

And then, another merit is an architecture that stresses security. Hereafter is the age in which all sorts of electronic devices will be connected to networks, and thus guaranteeing security will become important. In order to realize secure networks, I have previously related that we are proceeding with the eTRON project; by embedding an eTRON chip as standard equipment in T-Engine, it becomes possible to handle electronic entities (things into which we inscribe rights electronically) when connected to networks, and thus it becomes possible to utilize T-Engine in various types of secure applications.

Furthermore, ITRON will be actively used in the mobile, wearable, and ubiquitous areas in the future. For that purpose also, we intend to take aim at power saving and actively develop things like system level power management at the system level. I would certainly like you to take a look at T-Engine, which is making its first appearance at TRON SHOW 2002.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 72 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2001 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2001 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo