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Device Middleware for Mobile Applications

André Elia Assad, Federal University of Pernambuco
Nelson Souto Rosa, Federal University of Pernambuco

Nowadays, mobile-device applications operate in a virtual sandbox that runs each application in a tightly constrained environment. The applications don't share code and can't communicate with each other. This environment offers more security by preventing users from downloading buggy, malicious, or virus-infected code, but it lacks the flexibility, changeability, and maintainability that mobile-device applications require. The industry needs an open standard to integrate these application models in a device middleware that provides the applications' shared components.

We've created D-Mid (Device Middleware) to support mobile applications built on different programming languages but running on the same device. D-Mid lets the applications communicate with each other. In a typical scenario, it can integrate a Java application—well known for its ability to manipulate interfaces—with a C++ application executing in the same device to improve that application's performance. You can also dynamically customize D-Mid components.

We implemented D-Mid in Java, building it on top of the OGSi framework. 1 It addresses typical embedded application problems, such as runtime updates, component orientation, and execution-environment heterogeneity. It also addresses the interoperability of heterogeneous applications, satisfying the following requirements:

  • C++ applications must be able to invoke services registered with the OSGi service register (Java applications).
  • C++ applications must be able to add, remove, or update OSGi bundles at runtime.
  • Language-specific details must be hidden from the C++ application developers.

To achieve these requirements, our architecture leverages the OSGi framework, creating a bridge between Java and C++ application-model sandboxes to enable their communication (see figure 1).


Figure 1   A general overview of D-Mid.

We considered three basic issues when designing D-Mid. First, we wanted to provide a language-independent communication mechanism, so D-Mid uses intradevice peer-to-peer communication based on IPC (InterProcess Communication) to integrate the Java and C++ sandboxes. To overcome IPC mechanisms' portability constraints, the details of the communication channels (marshalling and unmarshalling) are hidden from the peers, encapsulating the middleware-specific functionality.

Second, to perform reconfiguration tasks, D-Mid contains a context that changes with time. The Java component contains information that describes D-Mid's services and managed components.

Finally, D-Mid contains a lightweight Inversion of Control mechanism that can discover registered OSGi services based on the requested service name. At each C++ application request, the OSGiBridge identifies the received command ( remove, update, install, or invoke), creates a JMessage, and calls the proper BridgeContext action for the command.

D-Mid brings adaptation to mobile-device software by giving Java applications access to native codes. It also lets C++ applications evolve and adapt at runtime by letting them change the middleware's software components and add and invoke new services.


Next-generation mobile applications will bring scalable, complex, and collaborative enterprise solutions into the market, which will require a middleware layer. A mobile enterprise-resource-planning system is a good example of an end-user application suitable for D-Mid. The system client running on a Symbian device with a native look-and-feel could leverage D-Mid by having all the business components on an OSGi framework, so the business process could evolve or even fix bugs at runtime.

Related Links

Cite this article: André Elia Assad and Nelson Souto Rosa, "Device Middleware for Mobile Applications," IEEE Distributed Systems Online, vol. 8, no. 8, 2007, art. no. 0708-mds20070800012.


About the Authors

Nelson Souto Rosa is an associate professor in the Centre of Informatics at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Contact him at
André Elia Assad is the IT Director at SAT and an M.Sc. candidate at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Contact him at
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