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THE scaling of device technologies has made possible significant
increases in the embedding of computing devices in our surroundings.
Embedded microcontrollers have for many years surpassed microprocessors
in the number of devices manufactured. The new trend, however,
is the networking of these devices and their ubiquity not only
in traditional embedded applications such as control systems,
but in items of everyday use, such as clothing, and in living
environments. A trend deserving particular attention is that in
which large numbers of simple, cheap processing elements are embedded
in environments. These environments may cover large spatial extents,
as is typically the case in networks of sensors, or may be deployed
in more localized constructions, as in the case of electronic
textiles. These differing spatial distributions also result in
different properties of the networks constituted, such as the
necessity to use wireless communication in the case of sensor
networks and the feasibility of utilizing cheaper wired communications
in the case of electronic textiles. Electronic textiles, or e-textiles,
are a new emerging inter disciplinary field of research, bringing
together specialists in information technology, microsystems,
materials, and textiles. The focus of this new area is on developing
the enabling technologies and fabrication techniques for the economical
manufacture of large-area, flexible, conformable information systems
that are expected to have unique applications for both the consumer
electronics and aerospace/military industries. They are naturally
of particular interest in wearable computing, where they provide
lightweight, flexible computing resources that that are easily
integrated or shaped into clothing. Due to their unique requirements,
e-textiles pose new challenges to hardware designers and system
developers, cutting across the systems, device, and technology
levels of abstraction:
The need for
a new model of computation intended to support widely distributed
applications, with highly unreliable behavior, but with stringent
constraints on the longevity of the system.
Reconfigurability and adaptability with low computational over
head. E-textiles must rely on simple computing elements embedded
into a fabric or directly into active yarns. As operating conditions
change (environmental, battery lifetime, etc.), the system has
to adapt and reconfigure on-the-fly to achieve better functionality.
technology challenges imposed by embedding simple computational
elements into fabrics, by building yarns with computational capabilities,
or by the need for unconventional power sources and their manufacturing
in filament form.
to traditional wearable computers, which are often a single monolithic
computer or a small computer system that can be worn, e-textiles
will be cheap, general purpose computing substrates in the form
of a woven fabric that can be used to build useful computing and
sensing systems "by the yard" .
to program such networks are required that permit useful applications
to be constructed over the defect and fault-prone substrate. There
is a need for a new model of computation to support distributed
application execution with highly unreliable behavior at the device-level,
but with stringent constraints on longevity at the system level.
Such a model should be able to support local computation and inexpensive
communication among computational elements.
In the classical design
cycle (Fig. 1), the application is mapped onto a given platform
architecture, underspecified constraints (performance, area, power
consumption).When these constraints are met, the prototype is
tested, manufactured, and used for running the application.
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