EC backs wireless development project to aid creation of cross-platform applications

The European Commission has backed a new wireless development platform designed to make it easier and cheaper for service providers and users to develop and adopt mixed wireless technologies.

The European Commission has backed a new wireless development platform designed to make it easier and cheaper for service providers and users to develop and adopt mixed wireless technologies.

The commission has put £1.2m into the Gollum (Generic Open Link-Layer API for Unified Media) project. The initiative involves several European universities and suppliers, including Aachen University, ST Microelectronics, Microsoft, Materna, Telefonica and Toshiba.

The aim of the project is to reduce the number of proprietary programming interfaces needed to enable wireless devices to connect to other terminals and servers through wired and wireless links. This would reduce the development time and cost of mobile multimedia platforms. Gollum also aims to improve functionality and interoperability between devices.

The Gollum application programming interface - the Unified Link Layer API (ULLA) - has been prototyped on a wide variety of platforms, ranging from wireless sensors to PDAs, mobile phones and high-end notebooks. With the ULLA, developers do not have to worry about supporting technologies such as IEEE 802.11, UMTS/GPRS, Bluetooth, Zigbee, UWB and Wimax.

The introduction of the ULLA in multimedia mobile terminals will also avoid the need for end-users to perform any action to detect a change in bandwidth, enabling context-sensitive applications, said Petri M„h”nen of Aachen University, who is co-ordinating the Gollum project.

He said wireless devices could adapt to changes in wireless network connectivity and environments, allowing "smart applications" to be developed. 

Wireless device manufacturers and network operators will not have to write device-specific code, so the specification could enable faster and more cost-effective implementation of new applications and services. 

The Gollum project has already presented the first implementation of an embedded, open operating system-independent link-layer API to support various wireless access technologies.

Gollum's ULLA has been trialled on wireless platforms including IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Wimax.

Wireless applications get smart

The Gollum Travel Guide, which uses a browser running on a handheld device, was demonstrated at the CeBit trade show earlier this month. The application downloaded city information, sightseeing tips and other tourist information from a remote server.

The Gollum API, ULLA, informs the application about the available links and their bandwidth. If only a small bandwidth link is available (GPRS), the application will only show text and small pictures. If a higher bandwidth link (wireless Lan) becomes available, the ULLA core will notify the application that the context has changed and more bandwidth is available. The application will react to this notification and show bigger pictures and also video.

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