A problem with software applications to control devices

Posted in Technicalon Jan 31, 2011

I’ve seen this problem many times. Someone develops a neat little gadget that can be computer controlled. It might be a toy microscope, a building automation system, or a mass spectrometer. Then the write a software application to control the gadget through a computer. Ten years later, there is nothing wrong with the gadget, but the software doesn’t.

The problem is that software applications is that they are written for today’s operating system, and there is no way to say that it will work on the common operating systems of ten or twenty years from now. Consider an app written 15 years ago. It would have been written for Windows 95, which you will find difficult to run on today’s advanced hardware. Maintaining a 15 year old computer which runs Windows 95 is equally difficult.

To avoid this problem, gadget developers need to decouple their gadget with a platform dependent software application. One way to do this is to build web servers into gadgets so that the gadget can always be controlled through a web browser without any special apps required. That is assuming that we will still use web browsers 20 years from now.

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