7/09/2014

Here's your chance to learn more about the upcoming IoT platform from QNX

Steve West of QNX:
smart guy, worth a listen
Today is July 9. Which means you have less than a day to register for tomorrow's IoT webinar, Transforming Business with the Internet of Things. So what are you waiting for?

In May, BlackBerry unveiled Project Ion, a series of IoT initiatives that includes, among other things, a secure, scalable, cloud-based IoT platform powered by QNX technology. And tomorrow, Steve West of the QNX Cloud team will discuss how this platform can transform businesses and customer experiences through the power of data and real-time decision making.

If you're a developer, engineer, team lead, manager, or anyone else who wants to learn more about connecting products to the IoT, this webinar is for you. Registering is easy: just visit the QNX website.

Webinar at a glance
Transforming Business with the Internet of Things
Thursday, July 10, 2014
10:00am PT, 1:00 pm ET, 5:00pm GMT
Registration page

5/22/2014

Why settle for Qt when you can have Qt 5.3?

This just in: Version 5.3 of the Qt Enterprise framework is now available for the latest release of the QNX Neutrino Operating System, version 6.6. It will also be available for users of version 6.5 in the coming weeks.

If you're new to Qt, it's a framework for creating cross-platform applications and GUIs. Which means you can write an application once and deploy it across a host of desktop, mobile, and embedded operating systems.

Supported platforms include Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, BlackBerry 10, iOS, Android, and, of course, QNX — and by QNX, I mean both the QNX Neutrino OS and the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

This "write once, deploy across" feature is a big reason why many QNX customers, including those in the automotive, medical, and industrial automation industries, use Qt in their embedded projects.

New APIs, enhanced UX
According to the folks at Digia, the company responsible for the development and licensing of the Qt project, a lot of effort has been put into enhancing the overall quality and user experience of Qt Enterprise 5.3. For example:

  • Improved first-time user experience through better documentation and easier installation workflow
  • Greatly enhanced printing support
  • New Qt Quick controls, including a calendar, native dialogs, and improved styling support

But hey, you know something? Bullet lists of product features are a yawner, especially when you can see all the new features in this new video from Digia. Check it out:



To learn more about this new release of Qt, visit the new Qt 5.3 landing page.

5/21/2014

BlackBerry unveils new project to help businesses derive value from IoT

A few moments ago, BlackBerry unveiled a series of initiatives, codenamed Project Ion, to help businesses easily connect people, devices and machines, and to derive value from these connections. Project Ion is a cornerstone of BlackBerry’s vision to offer end-to-end solutions for the Internet of Things, or IoT.

“As connectivity costs continue to fall and connected technologies become pervasive, a new market is emerging – the Internet of Things,” said John Chen, executive chairman and CEO, BlackBerry. “Billions of connections, generating trillions of transactions and exabytes of data daily, will require platforms that can operate securely on a global scale. No other company is in a better position than BlackBerry to provide the technological building blocks, applications and services needed to enhance productivity, improve real-time decision making and deliver on the vision of the Internet of Things.”

Project Ion will offer the resources necessary to access massive amounts of data from multiple disparate sources and distill it into meaningful, actionable information using open source and third party analytic tools. These resources include a secure public application platform, based on QNX software technology and BlackBerry secure enterprise mobility management, that will securely manage data from millions of end points across multi-device, multi-platform environments.

The project also encompasses facilitation of an IoT ecosystem as well as strategic partnerships, including membership in the Industrial Internet Consortium(IIC) and the Application Developer Alliance.

For the full story, read the press release.

And remember to check out Alec Saunders' post on the Inside BlackBerry blog.

5/14/2014

The end of software testing? No, not really

Testing: no longer about establishing
the correctness of a system
A few years ago, I penned a whitepaper that contained these words:

    "No amount of testing can fully eliminate the bugs and security holes in a complex software system, as no test suite could possibly anticipate every scenario the system may encounter."

As it turns out, I wasn't whistling dixie. My colleague Chris Hobbs, who has forgotten more about software design that I could hope to learn in multiple lifetimes, notes that:

    "... a modern, pre-emptible, embedded operating system with about 800 assembler instructions in its core has more than 10300 possible internal states. To put this into perspective, the Eddington Number (the number of protons in the observable universe) is about 1080.

Don't know about you, but those numbers far exceed what my brain can grasp. And if that's not enough, the 10300 figure applies only to the OS core — it doesn't account for the huge number of additional states that are introduced when you start running applications and their supporting libraries.

So why bother with testing when you can only hope to exercise, say,
0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the system's possible states? It all has to do with a concept called confidence from use.

Rather than attempt an explanation here, I invite you to read a paper that Chris has published, titled "Testing as a road to confidence-from-use". Chris not only explores the concept, but discusses the degree to which confidence-from-use data gathered on one version of a system can be applied to a slightly modified version. Recommended for anyone interested in software testing or reliability.

4/24/2014

Flying around the world on solar power

Did you miss it? I missed it. And I really wanted to catch it. Earlier this month — while I was paying attention to gosh knows what — the Solar Impulse team unveiled the first solar-powered aircraft capable of flying around the world. It’s called Solar Impulse 2, and it will embark on its round-the-world tour in March 2015.

The Solar Impulse team thinks big, but they also think smart. For instance, they didn't try to build a globe-circling solar plane right off the bat. Instead, they took a stepwise approach and built a plane that could fly shorter hops — across a continent, for example. The lessons learned from building and flying that first plane, which successfully crossed Europe, Africa, and the US, helped the team develop Solar Impulse 2.

Not surprisingly, Solar Impulse 2 is larger than its predecessor. The wingspan has grown from about 64 meters to 72 meters, the weight from about 1600 kilos to 2300 kilos, and the number of voltaic cells from about 12000 to 17000. That’s a lot of batteries.

Mind you, the numbers tell only part of the story. The Solar Impulse 2 project also required the development of innovative materials and construction methods, including new electrolytes to boost the energy density of the voltaic cells.

This story isn’t just about technology. It’s also about human skill and endurance. For instance, to cross the Atlantic or Pacific ocean, the plane, which has a top speed of 90 km/h, will need to stay airborne for about 5 or 6 days. And that means the pilot will have to sit in an unheated, unpressurized cockpit for more than 120 hours in temperatures that could range from -40°C to +40°C. These guys aren’t just smart; they’re tough to boot.

Did I mention? QNX Software Systems is the official realtime OS partner for the Solar Impulse team, and the plane uses the QNX OS for several control and data communication functions. Which is, well, cool.

The plane is scheduled to launch in about 310 days. And this time, I’ll be paying attention. By the way, here's the part that I missed:



See previous posts on the Solar Impulse project.

4/09/2014

Japan's high-tech innovations take on natural disasters

Guest post by my inimitable colleague Noko Kataoka.

Noko Kataoka
When I’m talking to my family in Japan, the conversation often turns to the weather. Not because we have nothing else to talk about, but because the weather is such a serious subject in their region. They experience heavy rainstorms in early summer (followed by scorching heat that lasts for over two months), ferocious typhoons in the fall, and blizzards in the winter that can drop up to 50 cm of snow overnight. Every time I hear a severe weather report I need to call my family and make sure they’re okay.

And, of course, Japan is known for its earthquakes. The country is still working to recover from the “311” (March 11, 2011) disaster, one of the worst earthquakes and tsunamis in history, which killed more than 18,000 people. The country has had to put a lot of thought into how more lives could be saved when Mother Nature chooses to strike again.

Logo of the
Saigai Taisaku Expo
The good news is, Japanese people are very good at advancing technology to address their unique environment. Government agencies and businesses work together on innovative ways to respond to environmental challenges. The country even has tradeshows dedicated to technologies for coping with natural disasters. For instance, the Saigai Taisaku Expo (Disaster Response Expo) showcased many ingenious solutions this year — from highly sophisticated portable toilets for evacuation camps to smartphone apps for earthquake warnings. Here are some solutions that I found interesting:

  • An unmanned airplane for establishing radio communications in isolated communities that have suffered infrastructure damage.
     
  • A helmet loaded with a head-lamp, radio, earthquake sensor, and wireless communications unit. The helmet not only protects you from physical shocks but also sends emergency messages for safety confirmation, evacuation guidance, and more.
     
  • An earthquake estimator that uses earthquake forecast information issued by the Japan meteorological agency to estimate the magnitude of an imminent quake and how long before the shock hits. It can be integrated with public broadcasting systems or digital signage to guide people to safety.
     
  • A smartphone navigation app especially designed for natural disaster situations. Using information from GPS and camera, the app displays directions for designated evacuation areas.
     
  • An unmanned 3D radar system for estimating damage to buildings. Okay, your building is still standing after a big earthquake — but how do you know if it’s safe to go in?
     
  • A public information system that consolidates and manages big data collected by the crisis management information center. In the state of emergency, people can access to emergency-response information they need from their mobile devices.
     
It is particularly interesting to see how new innovations are made possible by technologies such as smartphones and cloud connectivity. We have little immediate influence on how Mother Nature behaves, but people can engineer solutions to help survive natural disasters. And with global climate change causing unexpected weather across the planet, Japan’s innovations in connected systems for environmental challenges may prove useful in other parts of the world, too.

3/14/2014

I so need one of these!

You can work hard. You can work smart. Here's a robot vacuum that does both. It's called the Neato BotVac, and it uses laser technology to scan and map a room before cleaning it. Now, that's pretty cool.

Did I mention? It runs on the QNX OS.



Learn more about the Neato BotVac series of robot vacuums on the Neato website.