According to ICT Results, a EU-funded project named Embounded 'has achieved the twin, and apparently contradictory goals, of making embedded systems both smarter and tougher.' One example is the robuCAB, a '4 seats automated people mover' developed by a French company and built from a 4 wheel-drive electric chassis with on-board PC. This autonomous vehicle follows the kerb and carries several embedded systems, with one camera on the path edge, another device tracking the angle and direction of the kerb, while others control the gearing and acceleration. robuCABs are not totally independent. They move over pre-defined circuits which contain a series of sensors below the ground. But read more...
You can see above two robuCABs on the road. (Credit: Robosoft) Here is a link to a mini picture gallery. Robosoft is a French company based in the Technopole d'Izarbel Bidart and has a long history of designing high-end innovative service robots. It was founded in 1985 as a start-up of the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA).
You'll find more details about the robuCAB Automated People Mover by reading its specifications (PDF format, 2 pages, 303 KB). The picture above was extracted from this document. You also can read a technical paper called "Modular Distributed Architecture for Robotics Embedded Systems3 (PDF format, 6 pages, 1.02 MB). I've also used some information picked from an older article published by innovations report, "Robots who carry out us numerous tasks" (June 1, 2004).
Now, lets' go back to the EU-funded EmBounded Project. As says Kevin Hammond, coordinator of the project, "embedded systems are all around us." And he adds: "Half the world's annual spend on computers goes on embedded systems. And often, it is items we would not even think of as a computer, like a digital watch. But, like a digital watch, all embedded systems have software and some degree of processing hardware."
So what do these embedded systems? "They run ABS ('anti-lock breaking systems') in cars, avionics and high-tech toasters. They are in RFID ('radio frequency identification') chips, mobile phones and microwave ovens. Serious people are already talking seriously about 'painting' embedded systems onto walls just like, well, paint. Or of house bricks with microchips inside."
And because these systems need to be up almost of the time, they need to be almost unbreakable even if they don't process lots of data. But they are becoming more sophisticated every day, and programming them is also becoming more difficult. So "Embounded began with two apparently paradoxical goals: establish precise controls to enhance safety and create a more sophisticated programming language at a higher level of abstraction. One that tells the system what goal to achieve, but does not tell it precisely how to do it."
The Embounded team has developed a sophisticated programming language for embedded systems, called Hume, short for Higher-order Unified Meta-Environment. "Hume is a strongly typed, mostly-functional language with an integrated tool set for developing, proving and assessing concurrent, safety-critical systems."
For more information about the EmBounded Project, here are two interesting documents to read. The first one is an informational pamphlet, EmBounded: Formally Bounded Embedded Systems (PDF format, 1 page, 242 KB). The other one is a presentation delivered in September 2007, "EmBounded: Automatic Prediction of Resource Bounds for Embedded Systems (PDF format, 21 pages, 10.1 MB).
Sources: ICT Results, March 11, 2008; and various websites
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