Ocean Robots? Where’s the Java?
In August of last year, after leaving Google, Gosling joined a California-based startup called Liquid Robotics as their Chief Software Architect. Liquid Robotics makes data collecting ocean robots. Many US research institutions, as well as government and private sector customers use their robots to collect oceanic data. Their robots, the Wave Gliders unmanned maritime vehicle (UMV), are about the size of a surfboard. They are powered by sunlight; something that there is an abundance of on the oceans—so no worries about running out of power or having to refuel. They use that sunlight that is converted to power to run any number of on-board electronics and sensors. And one of the coolest things about the Wave Gliders is how they take advantage of wave-motion to power through the water, giving them an endless supply of energy.
Why the oceans? Why not space?
The truth is that we know more about space than we do the oceans here on our own planet. There are a myriad of reasons what it is important to better understand the, but at the very least, we could predict weather better, understand how the oceans influence climate better, better understand marine life and get to know the thousands of species that we have yet to discover and reduce the costs of running things like buoys. The students at SCAD made the following video for Liquid Robotics as part of their entry into the Savannah Ocean Exchange’s Gulfstream Navigator Award, which they won last year. The award recognizes “solutions that positively impact our ocean and coast.” Gosling said Liquid Robotics has “a technically interesting challenge, that could save the world, and is economically viable—these three things don’t come together that often.”
The oceans are vast and for the most part unmeasured. We are critically dependent on it and don’t know that much about it. The current methods for collecting data are very cost prohibitive. If you want to go very far out at all, the cost for just running a ship to do that is over $100,000 a day! And weather buoys cost at least $2 Million a year to run, and most of that is just paying for the ship to drop it off and for the cost of running a ship back out there to repair it. But what if would do things like understand hurricanes better and could accurately predict tsunamis? Right now, this data is very expensive and we don’t have that much of it; but what if we could get tons of data and make it cheap at the same time? This is what James Gosling is working on at Liquid Robotics.
Liquid Robotics and the Wave Glider
Basically, the Wave Glider is mobile, ocean going platform for sensors. To be more precise, it is a wave-powered UMV that presents a totally new method and approach for constant presence and data collection in the ocean. It combines both an underwater vehicle and sea-surface vehicle to make something of hybrid UMV. The underwater vehicle is where the Wave Glider gets the glider part of its name. The underwater glider is linked to the floating platform by a cable.
The Wave Glider uses the differences between the water’s behavior below the water and on the surface to propel itself: essentially converting the ocean’s wave energy into forward thrust. What’s even cooler though, is that the forward motion is independent of the wave’s directionality. This is the most unique part of the Wave Glider and what makes its goal of gathering the oceans’ data possible. Its propulsion system, or more accurately, it wave energy conversion system for propulsion, is what makes it so unique. With its system, the Wave Glider has unlimited propulsion, for free.
A wave that is rising will lift the surface Float, which due to the causes it to rise as well. The wings that you can see on the above video, articulate as they are pressed down on the upward motion of the Float and cause the motion of the Sub to go upwards and forward, pulling the Float forward and away from the wave. This then causes the Sub to drop, making the wings pivot again, moving the Sub down and forward, pulling the Float along again.
The part of the Wave Glider project that Gosling is running on Jelastic is the streaming telemetry bit. When they get the telemetry data off of the Wave Glider craft, that have to manage all of it; and this is something that he is actively working on using Jelastic. The current system that he has in place (and you can see this in the video 4min before the part about Jelastic) has a number of properties that he describes:
- It’s lightweight
- Very specialized
- Non-EE, JMS-ish thing
- Very Simple
- Optimized for small things that flow
- Every chunk has to be individually authenticated
- Authentication is extremely important because every data sample from every wave glider can potentially be differently authenticated
- Not trying to be general purpose
- The real key is simplicity
- It is not a big data problem: in fact, data needs to be really small due to the cost of sending it ($1/kb), add that up…
- Failure would leave fleets of flailing robots and tons of money lost
Why is he using Jelastic and not Amazon, Google or Microsoft?
In his talk, Gosling says that he was careful to not use any special APIs or ISPs. ISPs like Amazon, Gosling said, “Have had a number of incidents where they had a number of software bugs that took out an embarrassingly large part of their infrastructure.” So, he was careful to avoid people like Amazon, GAE or Microsoft Azure, where special APIs are a huge part, and possible liability, of their solution.
He wanted to build clusters that could cross ISPs. In doing so, he tried three different PaaS solutions, but stopped to say how much he liked Jelastic, how well it was working for him, how he likes the setup, backend and UI.
“I really like Jelastic. It’s actually software package that a number of ISPs are using. It’s a Java hosting system and so you don’t get a bare Linux machine. What you get is a JavaEE container, and you can drop WAR files on them and they have this really nice control panel where you get a slider that says how many clones of Glassfish do you want and check boxes for [databases]. You don’t have to go into Linux – Oh my God, what it takes to install anything: it’s like which version of Linux is compatible with which app server and what time… they actually take care of that and it works lovely. I actually built these clusters and they can span multiple ISPs, multiple countries, multiple datacenters, and that’s how I deal with my personal extreme paranoia of the survivability of these things.”
Why Jelastic is Better
Though his words speak for themselves, it’s worth repeating that Jelastic doesn’t approach the PaaS as do other providers. If you are worried about simplicity, survivability and decentralization, Jelastic is the easy answer.
“I’m a happy user of Jelastic”.
We are quite proud of what we have created with Jelastic and having “The Father of Java” praise us is an honor that we could have never expected or foreseen. To have him using our product for not only his work but, as he told us by email, using it for “a bunch of stuff” and his personal projects has confirmed our belief that developers have been looking for something like Jelastic. It just didn’t exist until now.
Dr. Gosling has said he will continue working on his fleet of sea robots.
That is all for today.