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Telemetry: The Next Big Internet Wave

Posted by tkosan on February 20, 2007 at 12:08 AM PST

In 2002, Sun's CTO ( Greg Papadopoulos ) indicated that Telemetry would be the beginning of the next Internet wave and this wave is now washing across the Internet. Greg discussed the concept of Internet waves in a talk titled "The Next Big Thing" during Sun's Analyst conference that year and here are 3 slides from that talk:

Waves of the Internet

These slides indicate that the first Internet wave consisted of an "Internet of Computers" and the second wave, which we are currently in, is an "Internet of Things that Embed Computers". The third Internet wave, which is an "Internet of Things", consists of physical objects like thermostats, switches, packages and cloths.

After presenting these three Internet waves, the slides progressively show what effect the waves have on clients, functions, protocols and organization. Overall, I think that these slides represent some of Sun's best thinking on how the Internet is going to evolve and I am surprised that they are not displayed more prominently on Sun's website.

In the "Functions" timeline, I have circled the word "Telemetry" in red and labeled it "The next big Internet wave" because that is what I want to discuss in this blog. I think that the Java community is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that the Telemetry Wave will bring, but it has yet to put good strategies in place for doing so. One of the main barriers associated with telemetry that the Java community needs to overcome is that a completely separate community is in control of the devices that allow the Internet to access the physical world.

Of course, these devices are based on microcontrollers like PICs, AVRs and ARMs. The community that is in charge of these devices consists of the smaller developer communities that have formed around each of the popular microcontroller families. The problem that the Java community has is that almost none of these microcontrollers are programmed in Java when they are used in situations where they are monitoring and controlling the physical world.

This may seem like a small problem, but it turns out to be a whopping huge one that the Java community has not even begun to address yet. If this problem is not addressed soon, it is my opinion that the Java community is going to completely miss its chance to take advantage of the opportunities that the Telemetry Wave is making available.

In a future blog, I am going to relate a story which shows what happens when typical microcontroller developers are exposed to Java for the first time. This story shocked me when I first heard it ( in fact, it still does! ) and I think it will shock you too :-)

Ted Kosan