ITRON Newsletter No.32 (HTML Edition)

ITRON Technical Committee, TRON Association
Katsuta Building 5F, 3-39, Mita 1-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108, JAPAN
TEL: (03) 3454-3191    FAX: (03) 3454-3224

Table of Contents

ITRON Open Seminar Planned for July 15
ITRON TCP/IP API Specification released
RTOS Automotive Application Technical Committee offers specification proposals
ITRON survey results compiled
Projects in Fiscal 1998
New ITRON Technical Committee member
Denso Create Inc.
ITRON-related Publications
TRON Project Symposium and TRON Association 10th Anniversary Commemoration
Report on ESC Spring '98
ITRON-Related products
JTRON-specification OS "JBlend" by Aplix Corporation

ITRON Open Seminar Planned for July 15

The annual ITRON Open Seminar will be held this year on July 15 at Arcadia Ichigaya, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. This will be the eighth seminar of its kind, presented as a yearly look at new developments in the ITRON subproject, and as an opportunity to introduce ITRON-specification implementations and applications as well as development tools.

At the morning session of this year's seminar, attendees will hear an update on the ITRON subproject, then will learn about the work of the µITRON4.0 Specification Study Group. Among the studies being carried out by this group are standards for a debugging interface for ITRON-specification OSs, which will be the subject of a panel discussion leading off the afternoon session. The panel members will take up some of the key issues for standardization in this area and discuss approaches to solving them.

Following the panel discussion, two of the latest ITRON project results will be introduced. These are the ITRON TCP/IP API specification, defining an Internet protocol for use with embedded systems, and JTRON (Ver. 2), an OS specification merging a Java runtime environment with an ITRON-specification OS. Additional sessions planned for this seminar will describe products implementing ITRON specifications as well as tools supporting the OS, and will present examples of ITRON-specification OS applications. Again this year, the seminar will close with a special talk by TRON Project leader Ken Sakamura.

Date: Wednesday, July 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Place: Arcadia Ichigaya (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 2 minutes on foot from JR Ichigaya Station)
Capacity: 150 persons
Admission (including tax):
TRON Association Members: 5,000 yen
General: 7,000 yen
Students: 5,000 yen
Program (tentative):
10:00-10:30 a.m.: Latest ITRON Project Trends
Kiichiro Tamaru (ITRON Technical Committee Chairman/Toshiba Corp.)
10:30-12:00 noon: Overview of the µITRON4.0 Specification
Hiroaki Takada (ITRON Technical Committee/Toyohashi Univ. of Technology)
1:00-2:30 p.m.: Panel Discussion, "Toward ITRON Debugging Interface Standardization"
(panel members to be announced)
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Latest ITRON Project Accomplishments
  • "Overview of ITRON TCP/IP API Specification"
    Tsuyoshi Kodama (Embedded TCP/IP Technical Committee/Alpine Information Systems Inc.)
  • "Overview of JTRON (Ver. 2) Specification"
    Shouichi Hachiya (Java Technology on ITRON-specification OS Technical Committee/Aplix Corporation)
3:45-5:45 p.m.: ITRON-related Products and Applications
Introduction to three ITRON-related products and presentation of application examples (details to be announced)
5:45-6:30 p.m.: Special Speech
Ken Sakamura (University of Tokyo)

For final program details and for information on signing up for the seminar, please consult the ITRON Web site, or inquire about the ITRON Open Seminar at the TRON Association Executive Office (TEL: (03) 3454-3191; FAX: (03) 3454-3224). We look forward to a large turnout again this year.

ITRON TCP/IP API Specification released

As reported in earlier Newsletters, the Embedded TCP/IP Technical Committee was formed in March 1997, in response to a call by the ITRON Technical Committee for studies of a TCP/IP API specification geared to embedded system use. The committee produced the first version of the specification in April of this year, which the ITRON Technical Committee then authorized in May as an ITRON specification and released as the ITRON TCP/IP API Specification (Ver. 1.00.00).

The TCP/IP API (application program interface) in widest use today is the socket interface designed for Unix. This standard, however, is seen as less than ideal for use with small-scale embedded systems. The newly released ITRON TCP/IP API Specification overcomes the difficulties with the socket interface, enabling the implementation of an efficient TCP/IP protocol stack better suited for embedded systems. Some of the Embedded TCP/IP Technical Committee member companies have already begun to develop a TCP/IP protocol stack based on this ITRON TCP/IP API Specification, making it likely that products implementing this specification will become available in a few months.

The ITRON TCP/IP API Specification can be downloaded from the ITRON Web site. At the ITRON Open Seminar and at embedded systems conferences and trade shows both in Japan and abroad, it is planned to promote awareness and use of this specification.

The Embedded TCP/IP Technical Committee expects to revise some of the details of the specification as necessary, approximately six months after the µITRON4.0 real-time kernel specification has been settled and reflecting feedback from completed implementations of the TCP/IP API specification.

RTOS Automotive Application Technical Committee offers specification proposals

Since June 1997, the ITRON Technical Committee through the RTOS Automotive Application Technical Committee has been conducting studies and drafting standards on application of the ITRON-specification OS to car electronics. Recently the results of these efforts were released in the form of real-time kernel specification proposals aimed at automotive control applications.

The field of automotive control is one that demands excellent response and reliability while keeping costs down to consumer-product levels. Until recently, the use of a real-time OS in this field has been considered unrealistic. The RTOS Automotive Application Technical Committee has been working on real-time kernel specifications suitable for automotive control. They have now produced two proposals, one a µITRON specification subset limited exclusively to the functions required for vehicle control, and the other a µITRON specification designed with no wait state. Plans are to reflect these proposals in the kernel specification being studied by the µITRON4.0 Specification Study Group. The proposals are also to be made available through the ITRON Web site as the results of this committee's work.

ITRON survey results compiled

From November 1997 through January of this year, the TRON Association conducted a survey on ITRON-specification use trends. The results have since been compiled and will soon be made available. Those who cooperated in the survey will receive the results in the form they requested, and the results will also be made public through the ITRON Web site.

For the past two years the TRON Association has focused its annual survey on the ITRON-specification OS, directing the questionnaires mainly at developers of embedded systems. The questionnaires are distributed by mail and at trade shows. Last year the response rate was close to 50 percent, with some 438 persons, mostly technical people involved in real-time system design and development, filling out and returning the questionnaires. We would like to thank all these people for their kind cooperation.

The survey questions ask about the applications field, OS used and other information regarding up to three of the most recently developed systems. The results show that approximately 28 percent of the systems surveyed use an ITRON-specification OS (commercial ITRON-specification OS: 16%; in-house ITRON-specification OS: 12%), 29 percent use other commercial OSs, 18 percent use an in-house original OS, and the remaining 25 percent use no OS. Compared to the previous year's results, the percentages of in-house original OS use and of systems without an OS have declined somewhat, with corresponding increases in the use of ITRON-specification OSs and other commercial OSs. The amount of shift in each case, however, is only around 3 to 4 percentage points, so further surveys will be needed before any definitive trends can be identified with confidence.

The survey also produced valuable feedback with regard to such issues as the problems with real-time OS use, the advantages and disadvantages of the ITRON-specification OS, awareness of ITRON-related activities, and opinions on the future direction of the project. This information will provide important guidance for policy-making from here on out. Additional details of the survey can be found at the ITRON Web site.

Projects in Fiscal 1998

During fiscal 1998, which runs from April of this year through next March, the ITRON Technical Committee is carrying out the following projects.

At the center of this year's activities is the µITRON4.0 Specification Study Group introduced in our previous Newsletter. In addition to the three working groups mentioned there (Kernel Specification WG, Application Design Guidelines WG, Device Driver Design Guidelines WG), a Debugging Interface Specification WG has been established to work on standardizing the interface between the ITRON-specification OS and debugging tools. Completion of the kernel specification is targeted for the first half of the fiscal year, with the remaining guidelines and specification due by next March.

As noted above, the Embedded TCP/IP Technical Committee having completed its initial work on the ITRON TCP/IP API specification, the committee will recess for the time being before turning its attention to a revision of the specification details in approximately six months. The RTOS Automotive Application Technical Committee issued two proposals in March, likewise introduced above, but the themes will continue to be researched in the form of an RTOS Automotive Application Technical Study Group.

The Java Technology on ITRON-specification OS Technical Committee, which began its work last November, was initially expected to release a specification this March. Since the studies have proceeded more slowly than expected, however, the committee will continue its work for a few more months until the specification is completed.

In addition to the above activities, standards for C++ language binding for the µITRON-specification kernel are high on the list of study themes demanding attention. Tentative preparations are being made to start standardization work in this area once some of the other projects have run their course.

New ITRON Technical Committee member

In April of this year the ITRON Technical Committee was joined by a new observer member, Denso Create Inc., introduced below. The complete list of committee members is available at the ITRON Web site.

Denso Create Inc.

Located in Nagoya, the company develops and sells software both for general release and on commission. Its commissioned software includes many embedded system projects for mobile systems, and in this connection it has undertaken µITRON-specification kernel development. Among its general-release products are development support tools such as nnHEADWAY/P, nnCOPY, and nnCIRCUIT.

ITRON-related Publications

Listed in the table are the publications prepared and issued by the ITRON Technical Committee as of April 1, 1998. They are available from the publishers indicated.

The revised edition of the µITRON3.0 Standard Handbook includes the latest version of the µITRON3.0 specification (Ver.3.02.02). Changes made between the µITRON3.0 Standard Handbook Ver.3.00.00 and Ver.3.02.00 are listed in the ITRON Standard Guidebook 2. The changes from Ver.3.02.00 to Ver.3.02.02 are limited to organizational changes and additional explanations; they do not affect the technical specifications themselves.

The ITRON-µITRON Standard Handbook is a one-volume compilation of µITRON2.0 and ITRON2 specifications. The ITRON Standard Guidebook 2 deals primarily with µITRON3.0. The earlier ITRON Standard Guidebook '92-'93 remains as a valuable reference for use with the µITRON (Ver.2.0) and ITRON2 specifications, even though the dates in its title are now past.

ITRON-related Publications
Name Type Price Publisher Issued ISBN No.
ITRON-µITRON Standard Handbook Specification (Jap.) 4,800Yen Personal Media Corp. 1990 ISBN4-89362-079-7
µITRON3.0 Standard Handbook, Revised Edition Specification (Jap.) 4,000Yen Personal Media Corp. 1997 ISBN4-89362-154-8
ITRON Standard Guidebook '92-'93 Reference work (Jap.) 3,500Yen Personal Media Corp. 1992 ISBN4-89362-197-6
ITRON Standard Guidebook 2 Reference work (Jap.) 3,500Yen Personal Media Corp. 1994 ISBN4-89362-133-5
µITRON Specification Ver Specification (Eng.) 12,000Yen TRON Association 1989 -
ITRON2 Specification Ver Specification (Eng.) 15,000Yen TRON Association 1990 -
µITRON3.0 Specification Ver 3.02.00 Specification (Eng.) - TRON Association 1994 -
µITRON3.0: An Open and Portable Real-Time Operating System for Embedded Systems Specification (Eng.) $40.00 IEEE CS Press 1998 ISBN0-8186-7795-3
* Prices do not include consumption tax.
* The documents are available to TRON Association members at a special discount rate.
* English-language specifications can be downloaded free of charge from

TRON Project Symposium and TRON Association 10th Anniversary Commemoration

The 14th TRON Project Symposium was held Thursday, March 12 in the Sanjo Kaikan of the University of Tokyo (Hongo Campus, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo). The symposium featured a number of invited lectures on TRON Project topics. In the ITRON session (3:45 - 4:45 p.m.), Hiroaki Takada of the Toyohashi University of Technology spoke on "Recent Results of the ITRON Subproject," and NEC's Koichi Nakamoto gave a presentation on "Integration of Java and ITRON Kernel."

Also related to ITRON was a panel discussion on the potential for partnerships between the TRON Project standardization work and other computer platforms. Details of the discussion can be found in TRONWARE vol. 51 (in Japanese).

On the following day, Friday March 13, the TRON Association commemorated its tenth anniversary at Arcadia Ichigaya in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. Following opening remarks by the sponsors and distinguished guests, the event featured reports, lectures and panel discussions. The latter included an ITRON-related discussion on embedded software standardization and the future outlook of the ITRON subproject, in which the panel members looked back over the accomplishments of the ITRON subproject and discussed future directions. The panel was made up of Ken Asami (Toyota Motor Corp.), Masayuki Arai (Mentor Graphics Japan Co., Ltd.), Tatsuya Enomoto (Mitsubishi Electric System LSI Design Corp.), Hiroaki Takada (ITRON Technical Committee/Toyohashi Univ. of Technology), and Yoichi Hosoi (Nihon Sun Microsystems). The discussion was led by Toshiba's Kiichiro Tamaru, ITRON Technical Committee chairman.

Report on ESC Spring '98

The ITRON Technical Committee took part in the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Spring, held from Tuesday March 31 through Thursday April 2 in Chicago.

Among the technical seminar presentations was a lecture by Hiroaki Takada (ITRON Technical Committee/Toyohashi University of Technology) on "Designing Small-Scale Embedded Systems with µITRON Kernel." The lecture described the status of real-time kernel application to small-scale embedded systems, then explained design methods for developing small embedded systems using a real-time kernel, drawing on examples from µITRON-specification OS applications. The OHPs used in this lecture can be found at the ITRON Web site in the Document Archive.

Although there was no ITRON booth at this year's event, ITRON pamphlets were distributed at the Japan System House Association (JASA) booth.

ITRON-Related products

This section gives brief introductions to ITRON-related development tools and middleware made available recently.

JTRON-specification OS "JBlend"
Aplix Corporation

JBlend is a real-time JavaOS based on the JTRON specification. By merging ITRON and Java into a hybrid OS, Aplix's JBlend combines the strengths of both OSs. ITRON features excellent runtime efficiency and fast interrupt response, while Java is known for its platform independence, network support, GUI environment and object-oriented design.

JBlend features

JBlend is built around an ITRON-specification kernel. Java threads run as ITRON tasks. ITRON semaphores, event flags and mailboxes can be used for synchronization and communication between different Java threads or between ITRON tasks and Java threads. An abstraction layer called PAL (Processor Abstraction Layer) is provided at the point of contact between the ITRON-specification kernel and JavaOS, enabling a Java runtime environment to be built with no changes on the ITRON end. The JavaOS processor-dependent API is mapped to the ITRON API via this PAL. JTRON classes are provided allowing ITRON kernel objects to be used from Java, making possible collaboration between ITRON and Java.

JavaOS functional extension

Using the JBlend functional extension modules "JOptions," reading and writing of floppy disks, CD-ROM or DVD, an IrDA or IEEE 1394 interface, and Japanese display including kana-kanji conversion can be realized in a Java environment. JBlend takes advantage of proprietary technology called "FTT" for greatly speeding up the JavaVM without increasing program or memory size.

JBlend applicability

JBlend has already been implemented for the NEC V800 and VR Series processors, for Hitachi's SH-2 and SH-3 series, for Toshiba's TX39, and for the x86 family processors. Work on other processor implementations is currently under way. JBlend is applicable not only to the fields where ITRON is presently being used, but also to a wide range of fields that can take advantage of the Java GUI and networking functions, from consumer electronics and office equipment to portable information appliances and car navigation systems.

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! This newsletter is a special edition for WWW of the one appeared in TRONWARE vol.51 and TRON PROJECT JOURNAL No.51.

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