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NSLU2 morphs into sensor network gateway

Oct 22, 2007 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Crossbow Technology has pressed the ubiquitous Linksys NSLU2 (aka “Slug”) into service as a network gateway. The Stargate NetBridge enables remote access to data collected by the company's wireless sensors, and runs a customized embedded Debian OS along with specialized applications.

(Click for a larger view of the Stargate NetBridge)

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Crossbow, a provider of wireless sensors such as the Linux-powered Imote2 introduced in June, says the “easy to configure” Stargate NetBridge gateway enables network-wide access to sensor data via a Web browser. The company claims the device offers plug-and-play connectivity with any of its BU series of wireless sensor network base stations.

Although the Stargate NetBridge is a variant of the Linksys NSLU2, “both hardware and software have been enhanced specifically for the sensor network data appliance application,” Crossbow said.

The 5.1 x 3.6 x 0.8-inch wireless gateway is based on an Intel IXP420 network processor clocked at 266MHz (the original NSLU2 ran at 133MHz), and comes equipped with 32MB of RAM, 8MB of NOR flash, plus a 2GB USB 2.0 flash disk. The unit's I/O ports include a wired 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connection and two USB 2.0 host ports.

Crossbow says the Stargate NetBridge can be used in conjunction with “USB hubs, flash drives, memory card adapters, serial/parallel adapters, WiFi adapters, cellular modems, GPS devices, printers, webcams, audio adapters, and many others.” However, when using third-party devices with the gateway, “specific Linux drivers from the device manufacturers may be needed for proper operation,” the company cautions.

The company describes the Stargate NetBridge's embedded OS as “a full fledged standard Linux distribution for the ARM architecture,” based on a 2.6.18 Debian kernel. Additionally, the unit reportedly also includes Crossbow's XServe management software, MoteExplorer data visualization software, plus data logging and traffic management programs. All the software is based on Crossbow's “standards-based” MoteWorks development platform, the company says.

XServe gateway software architecture
(Click image to enlarge)

According to Crossbow, wireless sensor networks are finding increasing roles in industrial automation, environmental control, asset tracking, and other applications. However, without a seamless link to standard Ethernet networks, data-rich sensor networks are often difficult to analyze, and application development can be time-consuming. “Our customers have been looking for ways to help simplify and expedite wireless sensor network development,” stated Robert Robinson, Crossbow's VP of sales and marketing.


The Stargate NetBridge is priced at $449 and is available immediately, according to the company.

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