[FoRK] PARC and ubiquity: The Obje Software Architecture

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Tue Mar 2 09:38:14 PST 2004

Fun, fun.  Now where's the agora? ;-)



The Obje™ Software Architecture

The Obje™ software architecture is an interconnection technology that 
enables digital devices and services to easily interoperate over both 
wired and wireless networks. It provides a simple "meta standard" for 
interoperation that enables people to access information and services 
from anywhere, in a completely hassle-free, ad hoc manner.

"Thirty years ago, PARC reinvented the software industry with the 
notion of object-oriented programming. Today the most famous of 
research labs is applying many of the same ideas to mobile hardware, 
and the results could be just as revolutionary."
       - Cade Metz, PC Magazine

By providing a uniform solution to interoperation, the Obje platform 
makes it easier for suppliers to build devices and services that work 
together. Putting assembly control into the hands of end-users also 
reduces the burden of developing applications, because particular 
customization can be performed in context.


The Obje platform works with all standards, including those that have 
not yet been defined. It requires no central coordination, 
pre-configuring, or special set-up, and can be easily used by people 
with no technical expertise.

It provides users a way to combine devices to build simple solutions 
for hundreds of problems – easily assembling their particular 
applications from available devices and services. It offers 
manufacturers a simple, fast, and timely solution to the increasing 
requirement to connect products.

The Obje platform works with devices of all kinds – including cell 
phones, computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), printers, 
set-top boxes, bar-code scanners, video displays, and others – from any 

How it works

Typically, communication among devices or services is structured into 
layers of protocols. Agreement on all layers is required before the 
devices and services are built. Developing and gaining acceptance of 
these agreements is a long, costly process that depends on broad 
industry consensus.
The Obje Interoperability Platform builds upon other industry 
standards. For example, it can run on top of any mobile code mechanism, 
such as Jini. Pyramid of protocol layers.

Instead of working out all agreements in advance, The Obje platform 
specifies a few very general agreements in the form of 
domain-independent programmatic "meta-interfaces". These 
meta-interfaces use mobile code to allow new agreements to be put in 
place at run-time, enabling devices and services to dynamically extend 
the capabilities of their clients.

The Obje meta-interfaces reduce the number of agreements that must be 
made between communicating entities. All Obje devices or services, 
which are called “components,” implement and make use of one or more of 
these meta-interfaces.


The PARC research team has developed a wide variety of components and 
applications that require the architecture to cope with diverse 
performance, security, and usability requirements, as well as a variety 
of data types.

Applications include a multimedia set top box, a public display system, 
and a system called “Casca,” which enables members of a team to share 
documents and device resources such as cameras, printers, and speakers.

While Casca was designed to be a collaborative tool, no component 
functionality was hardwired into it. For example, Casca was not 
specifically written to support video conferencing, but it could 
acquire that functionality as soon as members of the group shared 
cameras, speakers, and microphones.

These applications demonstrate that the Obje platform supports a wide 
range of applications and components.

The Obje platform is a key enabler for PARC’s vision of ubiquitous 
computing, in which people are able to connect with the computation 
that is all around them, no matter where they are or what type of 
device they are using. It overcomes the problem of multiple, 
incompatible standards that prevents ubiquitous computing from becoming 
a reality.


PARC is seeking corporate partners interested in leveraging the Obje 
platform inside their own products and applications. To learn more, 
please contact Hermann Calabria, Business Development, 650-812-4751.


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