Gosh, it’s tempting. Sun Microsystems offered to send me a evaluation kit of its Sun SPOT hardware platform SDK. SPOT, in this case, stands for Small Programmable Object Technologies. It’s a set of small, battery-operated wireless devices with an embedded Java Virtual Machine. (Alex Handy wrote about the kit in the July 15, 2006, issue of SD Times.)

Each device has a 32-bit ARM processor and a wireless radio (based on the 802.15.4 “ZigBee” spec), as well as USB. You can use them for sensor-based data acquisition, using an ad-hoc short-range mesh network. For sensors, there’s a built-in 3-axis accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a light sensor, some LEDs, some switches, and general-purpose analog and digital inputs. Neat.

Priced at $499 for two of the devices, a base station and developer tools, I can imagine this device being a big hit not only with developers, but also with general enthusiasts. Much will depend on the quality of the developer tools and documentation, of course.

I’ve accepted Sun’s kind offer: Although there just aren’t enough hours in the day, it seems, I’ll make the time for checking this out. (Exploring the SDK will make a great father/son project for a rainy Bay Area winter.)

Sun says that the kit will “use standard IDEs. e.g. NetBeans, to create Java code.” Although I do have NetBeans on my Sun Ultra 20 workstation (which I purchased for $1,091.16 after the 2005 JavaOne conference), I prefer working with Eclipse for Java development, and my Mac-centric son prefers Xcode. We’ll see how it works with those alternative IDEs.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick