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research:doforreal 2010/08/04 14:25 research:doforreal 2010/08/04 17:34 current
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====== Distributed Objects for Real ====== ====== Distributed Objects for Real ======
-Over the past year, a number of researchers at the Software Languages Lab have been involved in experiments designed to uncover new programming abstractions to facilitate the development of mobile RFID-enabled applications.  +Over the past year, the Software Languages Lab has been experimenting with new programming language abstractions for mobile RFID-enabled applications. We approached the development of such applications from two opposing perspectives, each outlined below.
- +
-During these experiments, we have approached the development of such applications from two opposing perspectives, which are briefly described below.+
===== Volatile Data Clouds ===== ===== Volatile Data Clouds =====
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occurrences, we make use of [[research:patterns|pattern matching rules]] which can be applied to any reactive collection.  This technique allows building RFID applications using a declarative programming style. occurrences, we make use of [[research:patterns|pattern matching rules]] which can be applied to any reactive collection.  This technique allows building RFID applications using a declarative programming style.
-===== Tags Objects =====+===== Proxy Objects =====
<note> <note>
-The tag objects model represents RFID tags as full-blown objects, which introduces a natural mechanism to deal with **mutable tag data**.  More information as well as videos of our experiments can be found [[research:rfid|here]].  +The proxy objects model represents RFID-tagged physical objects as full-blown software objects, which introduces a natural mechanism to deal with **mutable tag data**.  More information as well as videos of our experiments can be found [[research:rfid|here]]. 
</note> </note>
-While the //volatile data clouds// model considers RFID tags to be containers of data which is to be filtered and interpreted by the application, the //tag objects// model conceived them as hosts for full-fledged objects, which encapsulate mutable state and provide their own methods.+While the //volatile data clouds// model considers RFID tags to be containers of data which is to be filtered and interpreted by the application, the //proxy objects// model conceived them as hosts for full-fledged objects, which encapsulate mutable state and provide their own methods.
-When interacting with these tag objects, one has to deal with the ephemeral nature of the connection between the mobile RFID-enabled application and any particular tag.  The concerns to be addressed when interacting with tag objects closely mimic those that govern+When interacting with these proxy objects, one has to deal with the ephemeral nature of the connection between the mobile RFID-enabled application and any particular tag denoted by a proxy object.  The concerns to be addressed when interacting with RFID-tagged physical objects closely mimic those that govern
the interaction with classic remote objects: the interaction with classic remote objects:
-First of all, mobile RFID-enabled applications need a means to detect when a particular RFID tag has come into range.  As RFID tags are modeled as devices hosting an object, the most natural+First of all, mobile RFID-enabled applications need a means to detect when a particular tagged object has come into range.  As RFID tags are modeled as devices hosting an object, the most natural
mechanism to achieve this is to use the default [[at:tutorial:distribution#exporting_and_discovering_objects|service discovery mechanisms]] of AmbientTalk. mechanism to achieve this is to use the default [[at:tutorial:distribution#exporting_and_discovering_objects|service discovery mechanisms]] of AmbientTalk.
-Once a tag object has been discovered, the application can start to interact with it.  However, if either the user of the application or the tagged object is roaming, it is extremely likely that the tag will (temporarily) go out of range.  Hence,  application programmers are provided with [[at:tutorial:actors#ambienttalk_actors_and_far_references|far references]] to the tag objects.  This design ensures that tag objects can only be addressed using asynchronous messages and it implies that when a tag goes out of range, all messages that are sent to it are [[at:tutorial:distribution#dealing_with_transient_failures|buffered]].  Subsequently, when the tag comes in range again, these buffered messages will be flushed and forwarded to the tag.+Once a proxy object has been discovered, the application can start to interact with it.  However, if either the user of the application or the tagged object is roaming, it is extremely likely that the tag will (temporarily) go out of range.  Hence,  application programmers are provided with [[at:tutorial:actors#ambienttalk_actors_and_far_references|far references]] to the proxy objects.  This design ensures that proxy objects can only be addressed using asynchronous messages and it implies that when a tag goes out of range, all messages that are sent to it are [[at:tutorial:distribution#dealing_with_transient_failures|buffered]].  Subsequently, when the object comes in range again, these buffered messages will be flushed and forwarded to the tag on the object.
-By aligning tag objects with remote objects, one can develop mobile RFID-enabled applications without having to learn about a new concept.  Furthermore, application programmers can rely on the entire arsenal of abstractions to deal with remote objects. For instance, one can be notified of disconnection using the default //disconnection// and //reconnection listeners//.+By aligning tagged objects with remote objects, one can develop mobile RFID-enabled applications without having to learn about a new concept.  Furthermore, application programmers can rely on the entire arsenal of abstractions to deal with remote objects. For instance, one can be notified of disconnection using the default //disconnection// and //reconnection listeners//.
-A particularly interesting abstraction when developing mobile RFID-enabled applications are [[research:ambientrefs|ambient references]].  First of all, such references introduce mechanisms to clearly specify which objects one wants to refer to (i.e. one can impose additional constraints beyond the type of the object).  Additionally, ambient references provide a mechanism to implicitly denote and send messages to a collection of (tag) objects.+A particularly interesting abstraction when developing mobile RFID-enabled applications are [[research:ambientrefs|ambient references]].  First of all, such references introduce mechanisms to clearly specify which objects one wants to refer to (i.e. one can impose additional constraints beyond the type of the object).  Additionally, ambient references provide a mechanism to implicitly denote and send messages to a collection of (proxy) objects.
===== Comparison ===== ===== Comparison =====
-Having implemented both models, it remains unclear whether one of the models presented in this paper is to be preferred over the other.  As it stands, both models have shown to cater to different kinds of applications.  Moreover, when analysing the strengths and weaknesses of each of the models, they have shown to be largely complementary.+Having implemented both models, we have found their virtues and limitations to be largely complementary.  As it stands, both models have shown to cater to different kinds of applications.
-The volatile data clouds model treats RFID tags as simple containers of data and aims at providing applications with expressive means to represent a collection of nearby tags which is constantly in flux.  Consequently, the model focusses on being able to expressively filter such collections and detect the presence of (a combination of) tags, to which the application can respond.  Using volatile data clouds as a means to represent nearby tags allows the programmer to abstract over the events that underly the discovery of new tags and the handling of their disappearance.  The cost incurred by using these abstractions is the need for a rather heavy-weight infrastructure to properly handle reactive computation.  Furthermore, this model considers RFID tags almost exclusively as a means to indicate the presence of a physical object in close proximity to the device that is running a particular application.+The volatile data clouds model treats RFID tags as simple containers of data and aims at providing applications with expressive means to represent a collection of nearby tags which is constantly in flux.  Consequently, the model focusses on being able to expressively filter such collections and detect the presence of (a combination of) tags, to which the application can respond.  Using volatile data clouds as a means to represent nearby tags allows the programmer to abstract over the events that underly the discovery of new tags and the handling of their disappearance.  The cost incurred by using these abstractions is the need for a rather heavy-weight infrastructure to properly handle reactive computation.  In its current incarnation, the volatile data clouds model treats RFID tags as containers of immutable data whose presence indicates the presence of a physical object in close proximity to the device that is running a particular application.
-The tag objects model on the other hand treats the contents of an RFID tag as a full-fledged object.  This makes the model capable of interacting naturally with tags that contain marshalled objects and makes it particularly interesting to model interactions with //active tags//Active tags are RFID tags which contain their own power source and are capable of independently performing (some limited form of) computation.  Another advantage is that the model only requires a service discovery mechanism and a means to buffer messages, which makes it considerably more light-weight that the volatile data clouds model.  The downside of this method that it provides only crude support to detect the presence of (combinations of) tags in the environment.  Furthermore, the application needs to explicitly provide listeners to react to the events signalling the disconnection or reconnection of a tag.+The tag objects model on the other hand treats the contents of an RFID tag as a full-fledged object.  This makes the model capable of interacting naturally with tags that contain mutable objects and makes it particularly interesting to model interactions with //active RFID tags//((Active tags are RFID tags which contain their own power source and are capable of independently performing (some limited form of) computation.)).  Another advantage is that the model only requires a service discovery mechanism and a means to buffer messages, which makes it considerably more light-weight that the volatile data clouds model.  The downside of this method that it provides only crude support to detect the presence of (combinations of) tags in the environment.  Furthermore, the application needs to explicitly provide listeners to react to the events signalling the disconnection or reconnection of a tag.
In all likelihood, a programming model that fully leverages the advantages of a world teeming with tagged objects will incorporate elements of both models presented here. In all likelihood, a programming model that fully leverages the advantages of a world teeming with tagged objects will incorporate elements of both models presented here.
 
 
 
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