Sun SPOT technology set for open source

Sun is set to open-source everything related to SPOT, from hardware to software, but a user questions Sun's commitment to the technology

Sun is expected to announce this week that it will make the Sun SPOT (Small Programmable Object Technology) device platform available via open source, but a user expressed concerns about Sun's commitment to the technology.

Sun SPOT is a Java-based experimental platform intended to enable development of products like wireless sensors, robotics, and communication devices. The open-sourcing is expected to be made official at the Java Mobile & Embedded Developer Days Conference in California, which is being held January 23-24.

"In this case, I think what's a little bit different is it's not just open-sourcing just the Sun SPOT code," said Roger Brinkley, mobile and embedded community leader at Sun. "It's everything related to Sun SPOT. It's the hardware, it's the software."

Included in the open source endeavor would be the Squawk virtual machine featured as part of Sun SPOT. Through the open-source move, Sun hopes to attract more developers to Sun SPOT. "The open-sourcing allows a lot more extension and development to occur," Brinkley said.

The plan calls for Sun SPOT to be offered under the GNU General Public License version 2, which means derivatives of GPL code and code that is combined with it must be redistributed. Sun, however, previously has permitted use of the "ClassPath" exception to the GPL, which enables combining of proprietary code with GPL ClassPath libraries without the need to redistribute proprietary code.

Contacted afterward, Sun SPOT user Bruce Boyes, president of Systronix, lauded the technology but had concerns about Sun's commitment to it. By classifying the technology as experimental, Sun shows no published commitment to make it available for any period of time commercially, he said. Systronix has been trying to get a commercial license for two years, he said.

"SPOT is a very cool educational and experimental device. We'd like it to become a great commercial and industrial device too. Systronix would like to help make that happen," Boyes said. Systronix is using Sun SPOT in robots, which could be networked and potentially be used in applications, such as roaming of airports to provide security. "We use the Sun SPOT as the application brain," said Boyes.

He also expressed concerns about the GPL, which has requirements that can place limits on its use in commercial ventures since software involving it has to be contributed back to the open-source arena. "Open-sourcing would be most interesting if there was a reasonable path to a commercial license," Boyes said.

Sun officials were not available to respond to Boyes's concerns on Friday afternoon.

In other happenings at next week's conference, application developers in the mobile and embedded space will get together to learn about different topics ranging from virtual machines to mobile clients. Presentations will be done by representatives from such companies as Nokia, Intel and, of course, Sun. James Gosling, CTO of Sun's Client Software who is widely considered the father of Java, will give a keynote presentation on Wednesday.

Java, according to Sun, is on 95 percent of mobile phones shipped today. Sun makes money off of mobile and embedded Java through commercial licenses that feature support services.

One topic that is not expected to get a lot of play at the event is Sun's JavaFX and JavaFX Mobile technology. The JavaFX platform, featuring JavaFX Mobile, is intended to provide a consistent and graphical user experience on systems ranging from desktops to mobile devices and other systems. More on JavaFX will be aired at the JavaOne conference in May in San Francisco, a Sun insider said.

Currently, Sun's new acquisition, MySQL, maker of the open source database of the same name, has not been factored into Sun's mobile plans, according to Brinkley. Sun agreed to acquire MySQL this week for US$1 billion, with the deal expected to close later this quarter or early in the next quarter.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Krill

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

Xiro Drone Xplorer V -3 Axis Gimbal & 1080p Full HD 14MP Camera

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >


Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on Good Gear Guide

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?