TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

TRON SHOW 2004, which was held at Tokyo International Forum for three days from December 11 last year, was the fifteenth show. The one on this occasion was the largest in scale ever, with 39 companies exhibiting in a huge exhibition hall. The theme of the show was "Ubiquitous Computing Meets TRON." It was an appropriate event for bringing 2003, the first year of ubiquitous computing, to a close. It was introduced in the various mass media, and as there was good transportation access in front of JR Yurakucho Station, such a large number of people came that congestion in the exhibition hall continued up to Saturday, the last day of the show. On Friday evening, Prime Minister Koizumi visited the exhibition hall, and so many people crowded in we couldn't move. And then, at the end of last year, as expected, the T-Engine Forum made it to the point where membership broke through 300 companies.

Well then, what we're putting the greatest effort into with that T-Engine is making possible the distribution of large amounts of middleware in order to raise software development efficiency, and for that purpose, we have pressed forward with various types of preparations. The real-time operating system kernel on top of T-Engine--T-Kernel--uses µITRON as its base, but with T-Kernel in order to maintain the compatibility of application software and middleware, we decided to make the source programs completely single source, and as for the method by which we are making it public, we decided to make it so that it's all right for anyone to use it royalty free based on T-License. The release to the public throughout the world should begin about the time this magazine goes on sale.

In addition, we also announced an electronic distribution system called T-Dist. By means of using eTRON, which is embedded in T-Engine, we provide functions through which micropayments (small sum payments) become possible even on line. Finely calibrated payments become possible, for example, the first five uses are free as a test, or a discount comes into effect when cumulatively used more than a certain number of times.

In parallel with the consolidation of a base for middleware distribution, we have put effort also into increasing middleware. We have had world class software companies that provide important middleware join the T-Engine Forum. In March of last year, MontaVista Software Inc., the largest embedded Linux maker, announced that it would provide T-Linux, which runs as one T-Kernel task, and in September, Microsoft Corporation joined the T-Engine Forum and promised that it would provide an environment that makes WindowsCE .NET run on top of T-Engine. When looked at from T-Kernel, these information-type guest operating systems could be called giant middleware, so to speak.

In the background of information processing-type operating systems gathering on top of T-Engine in this manner--even MontaVista CEO Mr. Jim Ready talked about it in his speech at TRON SHOW 2004--lies a performance difference between ITRON and information processing-type operating systems such as embedded Linux in which the task dispatch time is 1,000 times different, as in microseconds and milliseconds. For that reason, in cases of high-level hard real-time performance, they must be attached to an outstanding real-time kernel. At that time, T-Kernel is the optimal thing. Moreover, Microsoft Vice President Mr. Susumu Furukawa--and also Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in yet another speech--stated that Windows CE can obtain the highest performance by joining it together with T-Kernel.

On the one hand, Sun Microsystems Inc. announced on December 19 last year that it will load a Java execution environment onto T-Kernel jointly with the T-Engine Forum. This is not a simple implementation, rather it supports TRON Code as character code. Also, Oracle Corporation announced on December 1 that it would provide the Oracle Lite database for T-Kernel. Additionally, in the manner that Macromedia Inc. is providing Flash and Picsel Technologies Ltd. the Picsel browser, the important middleware vendors of the world have come to load their wares onto T-Kernel.

There are more than 100 pieces of middleware on T-Kernel at present, but in 2004, at a minimum, I would like to break through 300, and, if possible, through 500 pieces. This is not altogether a dream. That is because inside less than two years, T-Kernel has become the strongest open embedded software platform in the world, and the T-Engine Forum that manages it, just speaking from the number of members, has become the embedded open platform organization that possesses the greatest influence in the world.

And then, with ubiquitous technology also, immediately prior to TRON SHOW 2004, the YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory announced, and received a lot of reaction to, the PHS terminal UC-Phone that can read in from either an optical system or an RFID a code for individual identification we decided on called ucode. Until RFIDs widely spread throughout society, the parallel use of optical-type barcodes is desirable, both technologically and in terms of cost. Furthermore, from January 2004, there also commenced the general marketing phase of our full-blown proving trials in which we attach IC tags to vegetables and trace their history from the production stage.

As the TRON Project rings in its twentieth year, the technological developments for constructing the ubiquitous computing society that we are aiming at are steadily advancing. In 2004 also, I shall be dependent upon requesting your support for the TRON Project.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 85 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2004 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2004 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo