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OSGi Networks Ready To Roll

2/25/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Home appliances will likely be the first networked consumer products in the United States to take advantage of an Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) gateway, followed by consumer electronics devices, said OSGi president John Barr.

OSGi's Java-based middleware platform has already been adopted by Whirlpool, which will implement it in conjunction with powerline and wireless IEEE 802.11b network technologies, Barr said. During the International Builders Show in Atlanta, Whirpool announced fourth-quarter shipments of its products.

"We expect to see a large number of OSGi-capable CE products displayed at CES 2003," he noted. "There will also be several product announcements associated with CeBit 2002 in March."

The first vehicles equipped with OSGi telematics systems will be European vehicles in the European market. Companies such as Opel, Saab and Volkswagen will begin delivering Telematics solutions using OSGi in Europe as early as the second quarter of this year. GM OnStar Europe is trialing OSGi, he added.

OSGi, a consortium of almost 50 companies, developed its middleware to provide a common platform to develop network applications that can run on top of proprietary or standardized physical-layer network technologies such as wireless 802.11b and powerline-based HomePlug.

OSGi has three goals, he said:

  • Create a common platform to promote the development of network applications.

  • Create a bridge between a local home network and the Internet.

  • And create bridges among home devices that incorporate different physical-layer and control-protocol network standards.

An OSGi gateway, for example, could be designed to allow an 802.11b device using the Microsoft Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) control protocol to talk to a device incorporating HomePlug and Sun's Java-based Jini control protocol.

For appliance and CE makers, Barr said, OSGi provides "a service-delivery model that CE manufacturers can use" to generate added value. Digital-camera makers, for example, could offer a set of linked services via a broadband connection to enable consumers to order prints or send digital images via a TV-top picture viewer.

OSGi-equipped devices could also be remotely upgraded to add new features or services, "to grow with consumers," he added.

Whirlpool, he noted, has built an OSGi gateway that connects via an Ethernet connection to a broadband modem. The gateway in turn connects to planned appliances via a powerline carrier and wireless 802.11b.

The combination of technologies will enable Whirpool to perform remote diagnostics of malfunctioning equipment and deliver new types of services to consumers, Barr said. For example, through a refrigerator-mounted Web pad, consumers could retrieve instructions for using a convection oven. They could also use a scanner, perhaps built into the Web pad, to scan the UPC code of a food item and automatically program a networked microwave or convection oven to cook the item.

In effect, the technology would enable microwave oven manufacturers to build virtual buttons, similar to popcorn buttons, dedicated to cooking each of hundreds of food items without cluttering up the microwave's control panel. "The control panels required for devices today are too big for the devices," Barr said.

This type of application would be "very low cost" to implement in a microwave, he said, because the scanner would talk directly to the gateway, and the microwave need only get the specific cook command, perhaps via powerline. Likewise, appliances need only generate an application-specific command to the gateway, which "would translate the command and talk to the remote service. The OSGi gateway holds the logic for the services."

CE products that talk to OSGi gateways might be on display at CES 2003, Barr said. OSGi already appears in a LonWorks gateway whose user interface is a TV or Web pad. No services are yet available through it, however.

OSGi is being deployed in the United States for wireless fleet management for New Jersey Transit trains.