Pascal Bauermeister, head of software development for Smartdata announces the architecture of PocketBee, a small footprint Embedded Linux operating system being developed for use on the company’s new credit-card sized “Chipslice” portable/mobile/wearable computer.
Smartdata is developing a modular credit card-sized pocket device, Chipslice, that can serve as the basis of wireless phones, PDAs, MP3 players, GPS receivers, game consoles, and many other types of mobile, portable, and wearable computing applications. This extreme flexibility is facilitated by a high degree of hardware modularity: each added function is contained on a credit card-sized module, and multiple such modules can be stacked together to form the desired system configuration.
To make the most of this modularity, and to ensure compatibility of Chipslice-based devices with available software and protocols, we are developing an Embedded Linux based operating system for Chipslice: PocketBee.
PocketBee is different from other Linux-based suites for mobile devices in that it has an extremely tiny footprint, provides a strongly communication-oriented environment for applications, and offers an emphasis on code portability, using Java for this purpose.
PocketBee can run on a platform comparable with that of Palm, whereas other mobile device suites based on PocketPC, or other Linux ports, typically require 16+ MByte of RAM and 50+ MHz CPUs. (PocketBee will, of course, run extremely well on those more powerful devices!) Accordingly, the building blocks have been carefully selected to achieve this:
WABA — the smallest Java VM
PicoGUI — the smallest client-server GUI
SDBM — a distributed database, to allow data sharing and replication
uClinux — the popular scalable and stable kernel
The microcomputer and display reside together on the main card, running uClinux. The current version has a 320×240 monochrome LCD, a DragonBall VZ328, 4 MB of Flash memory, and 2 MB of RAM. This somewhat spartan configuration is meant to enable very low prices, to support devices in the range of cell phones to PDAs. Alternate microcomputer cards will eventually be built around more powerful — but more expensive — CPUs like StrongARM, in order to extend the capabilities towards multimedia applications.