Friday, January 20, 2006

TomTom for Sale, Trades for OSGi Phone

Yesterday I had to attend the Vehicle Expert Group meeting in Sophia-Antipolis (Nic)e at Siemens VDO. Nice is about 300 km from where I live so I decided to drive. Got up at 5.45, in the car at 6.15, and after programming the TomTom navigation unit I was on my way. It was a beautiful day so I enjoyed the stars, the twilight, the sunset, and a wonderful espresso. After 2.5 hours, Truus (as we call the TomTom) told me to take exit 42. This was not the normal route so I naïvely concluded that Truus had found a better way. After 45 minutes in traffic jams on small back-roads I ended up in the middle of nowhere: I had told Truus to go to “Lucioles”, not realizing that Sofia-Antipolis has 3 different places with Lucioles in the name. Obviously, the first line had not been the right one. Entered the right spot (I thought), went there, found that the Siemens VDO had moved. Had to dig up the new address on my computer but unfortunately, Truus feigned ignorance of “Avenue de Roumanille”, or for that matter any other road I could see in the neighborhood. I called the meeting host, Olivier Pavé, but got no answer. I then drove up to an information area where I still could not find the place on the map. Fortunately, Olivier called me and told me he would pick me up. Anybody interested in a second-hand TomTom?

At first I blamed my self for not being more prepared but then I started thinking. Why do we always blame ourselves? Isn’t it the task of the technology to handle the chores of life?
  • Why did it force me to enter an address, which is error prone (especially at 6.15 in the morning!).

  • Why did I have to rely on the last address I had, while it could have been updated over the net?

  • Why did I have stale maps (they were bought in April last year, the road clearly looked older than 2 years)?

I told the group that what I really want is to tell my navigation system to go to “Olivier Pavé”. We discussed this use case, how it could be implemented. The navigation system could send an SMS to Olivier, which then replies with its position (after confirmation of course). The navigation system then just navigates there. Nice use case! Unfortunately my TomTom is a closed system so implementing this use case is a major amount of work. Even if I could operate on Truus (she is running Linux), I would have to invest a major amount of work to only one brand.

Olvier Pavé then told me about their plan to port a Midlet based online navigation system to the OSGi Mobile Service Platform. Nokia had promised them a phone to make this prototype. They demoed the Midlet, leaving Truus in the dust, because it knew the “Avenue de Roumanille” in the smallest detail!

In the OSGi Mobile Platform architecture, they would have to split the navigation system in a Navigation Service, a Position service, and a Navigation UI. This architecture would enables me to write an application that implements my  “Go to Olivier” use case, without having to write my own navigation system (and without having to go to a standardization process). Such a use case is impossible with MIDP.

This example clearly illustrates the vision of Jon Bostrom, Nokia’s Director for Java: Provide a platform for middleware and third parties will create an avalanche of innovation. Fortunately, operators are starting to see the light: Sprint has just become an OSGi member. Welcome!

     Peter Kriens
     OSGi Evangelist

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