Category: KerberosSDR

Measuring Traffic in a Neighborhood with KerberosSDR and Passive Radar

KerberosSDR is our four tuner coherent RTL-SDR product made in collaboration with Othernet. With KerberosSDR applications like radio direction finding and passive radar are possible, and our free open source demo software helps to make it easier to get started exploring these applications. In this post we explore how a simple passive radar setup can be used to measure how busy a neighborhood is in terms of vehicular traffic.

KerberosSDR is currently available from the Othernet store for US$149.95, and the setup guide is available at www.rtl-sdr.com/ksdr.

Passive radar makes use of already existing strong 'illuminator' signals such as broadcast FM, DAB, digital TV and cellular. When these signals reflect off a moving metallic object like an aircraft or vehicle, it distorts the signal slightly. By comparing the distorted signal to a clean signal we can determine the distance and speed of the object causing the reflection. Wide reaching digital signals like DVB-T and DAB are often the best illuminators to use. Wideband cellular signals can also be used to detect more local targets.

In a simple passive radar system we use two directional antennas such as Yagi's. One Yagi points towards the broadcast tower and receives the clean non-distorted reference signal. This is known as the reference channel. A second Yagi points towards the area you'd like to monitor for reflections, and this is called the surveillance channel.

In our setup we point the reference channel Yagi towards a 601 MHz DVB-T transmitter roughly 33 km away. A second Yagi is placed on a vantage point overlooking a neighborhood. The Yagi's used are cheap DVB-T TV Yagi's that can be found in any electronics or TV retail store (or on Amazon for ~$30 - $60 USD).  In the software we used a bandwidth of 2.4 MHz and adjusted the gains for maximum SNR.

It is important that the surveillance channel is isolated from the reference signal as much as possible. We improve the isolation simply by placing a metal sheet next to the surveillance Yagi to block the reference DVB-T signal more. Note that putting the antennas outside will obviously result in much better results. These walls and windows contain metal which significantly reduce signal strength. We also added our RTL-SDR Blog wideband LNA to the surveillance channel powered by a cheap external bias tee to improve the noise figure of the surveillance channel.

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Setup
KerberosSDR Passive Radar Setup
Surveillance Antenna View
Surveillance Antenna View

The resulting passive radar display shows us a live view of objects reflecting. Each dot on the display represents a moving vehicle that is reflecting the DVB-T surveillance signal. In the image shown below the multiple colored objects in the left center are vehicles. The X-Axis shows the distance to the object, and the Y-Axis shows the doppler speed. Both axes are relative to the observation location AND the transmit tower location.

Vehicles on the Passive Radar Display
Vehicles on the Passive Radar Display

When there are more moving cars on the road during the day and rush hours, there are more blips seen on the passive radar display. Larger vehicles also produce larger and stronger blips. By simply summing the matrix that produces this 2D display, we can get a crude measurement of how busy the neighborhood is, in terms of cars on the road since reflections are represented by higher values in the matrix. We logged this busyness value over the course of a day and plotted it on a graph.

The resulting graph is as you'd intuitively expect. At 6AM we start to see an increase in vehicles with people beginning their commute to work. This peaks at around 8:30AM - 9am with parents presumably dropping their kids off to the neighborhood school which starts classes at 9AM. From there busyness is relatively stable throughout the day. Busyness begins to drop right down again at 7PM when most people are home from work, and reaches it's minimum at around 3am.

Traffic Busyness detected with KerberosSDR Passive Radar
Traffic Busyness detected with KerberosSDR Passive Radar

One limitation is that this system cannot detect vehicles that are not moving (i.e. stuck in standstill traffic). Since the doppler speed return will be zero, resulting in no ping on the radar display. The detection of ground traffic can also be distorted by aircraft flying nearby. Aircraft detections result in strong blips on the radar display which can give a false traffic result.

It would also be possible to further break down the data. We could determine the overall direction of traffic flow by looking at the positive and negative doppler shifts, and also break down busyness by distance and determine which distances correspond to particular roads. In the future we hope to be able to use the additional channels on the KerberosSDR to combine passive radar and direction finding, so that the the blips can actually be directly plotted on a map.

If you want to try something similar on the KerberosSDR software edit the RD_plot function in the _GUI/hydra_main_window.py file, and add the following simple code before CAFMatrix is normalized. You'll then get a log file traffic.txt which can be plotted in excel (remember to convert Unix time to real time and apply a moving average)

CAFMatrixSum = np.sum(CAFMatrix)
trafficLog = open("traffic.txt", "a")
logString = str(round(time.time())) + "," + str(round(CAFMatrixSum)) + "\r\n"
trafficLog.write(logString) 
trafficLog.close()

New Product in Store: RTL-SDR Blog Magnetic Whip Antenna Set (Great for KerberosSDR Direction Finding)

We've recently released a new Magnetic Whip Antenna Set in our store. The set consists of a heavy duty magnetic mount antenna base with 2M RG59, a 9.5cm fixed whip antenna (usable from 400 MHz to 2 GHz+), and a 17cm to 1m telescopic whip (usable from 100 MHz - 400 MHz).

Click Here to Visit our Store

The antenna set costs US$14.95 each with free shipping. And if you buy four sets you will receive a 15% discount. Currently available to ship worldwide right now from our warehouse in China, and they will be on Amazon in 2-3 weeks.

One application of our KerberosSDR 4-Tuner Coherent RTL-SDR is radio direction finding. This requires four quality omni-directional antennas. We were disappointed to find that there were no high quality magnetic whip antennas available on the market for a low price that we could use with KerberosSDR so we made our own.

The magnetic base is designed carefully with conductive metal that is properly connected to the shield of the coax cable. Most cheap antenna bases just leave the shield connection floating and this causes insufficient coupling to the underlying ground plane resulting in poor performance and poor results when it comes to direction finding and reception.

We've tested this set with KerberosSDR and it is known to work well. The antenna can also of course be used for any other receiving purpose if you prefer to use a whip antenna over our multipurpose dipole antenna set.

In the first two images in the image slider below you can see a comparison between a black base that is not properly bonded to the coax shield, vs the RTL-SDR Blog silver base which is correctly bonded to the coax shield. Both tests used the 9.5cm whip antenna. You can see that the RTL-SDR Blog silver base provides a much lower noise floor and higher signal SNR due to the better ground plane. Also we note that when placing the antenna bases on a metallic surface to create a larger ground plane, the black base showed no further improvement, whereas the RTL-SDR Blog silver base did.

The final three images in the slider show the SWR plots of the two whips on the base. We can see that the 9.5cm whip provides an SWR of less than six below 412 MHz. The telescopic whip can be adjusted to provide better SWR for lower frequencies.

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

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Measuring Traffic in a Neighborhood with KerberosSDR and Passive Radar

KerberosSDR is our four tuner coherent RTL-SDR product made in collaboration with Othernet. With KerberosSDR applications like radio direction finding and passive radar are possible, and our free open source demo software helps to make it easier to get started exploring these applications. In this post we explore how a simple passive radar setup can be used to measure how busy a neighborhood is in terms of vehicular traffic.

KerberosSDR is currently available from the Othernet store for US$149.95, and the setup guide is available at www.rtl-sdr.com/ksdr.

Passive radar makes use of already existing strong 'illuminator' signals such as broadcast FM, DAB, digital TV and cellular. When these signals reflect off a moving metallic object like an aircraft or vehicle, it distorts the signal slightly. By comparing the distorted signal to a clean signal we can determine the distance and speed of the object causing the reflection. Wide reaching digital signals like DVB-T and DAB are often the best illuminators to use. Wideband cellular signals can also be used to detect more local targets.

In a simple passive radar system we use two directional antennas such as Yagi's. One Yagi points towards the broadcast tower and receives the clean non-distorted reference signal. This is known as the reference channel. A second Yagi points towards the area you'd like to monitor for reflections, and this is called the surveillance channel.

In our setup we point the reference channel Yagi towards a 601 MHz DVB-T transmitter roughly 33 km away. A second Yagi is placed on a vantage point overlooking a neighborhood. The Yagi's used are cheap DVB-T TV Yagi's that can be found in any electronics or TV retail store (or on Amazon for ~$30 - $60 USD).  In the software we used a bandwidth of 2.4 MHz and adjusted the gains for maximum SNR.

It is important that the surveillance channel is isolated from the reference signal as much as possible. We improve the isolation simply by placing a metal sheet next to the surveillance Yagi to block the reference DVB-T signal more. Note that putting the antennas outside will obviously result in much better results. These walls and windows contain metal which significantly reduce signal strength. We also added our RTL-SDR Blog wideband LNA to the surveillance channel powered by a cheap external bias tee to improve the noise figure of the surveillance channel.

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Setup
KerberosSDR Passive Radar Setup
Surveillance Antenna View
Surveillance Antenna View

The resulting passive radar display shows us a live view of objects reflecting. Each dot on the display represents a moving vehicle that is reflecting the DVB-T surveillance signal. In the image shown below the multiple colored objects in the left center are vehicles. The X-Axis shows the distance to the object, and the Y-Axis shows the doppler speed. Both axes are relative to the observation location AND the transmit tower location.

Vehicles on the Passive Radar Display
Vehicles on the Passive Radar Display

When there are more moving cars on the road during the day and rush hours, there are more blips seen on the passive radar display. Larger vehicles also produce larger and stronger blips. By simply summing the matrix that produces this 2D display, we can get a crude measurement of how busy the neighborhood is, in terms of cars on the road since reflections are represented by higher values in the matrix. We logged this busyness value over the course of a day and plotted it on a graph.

The resulting graph is as you'd intuitively expect. At 6AM we start to see an increase in vehicles with people beginning their commute to work. This peaks at around 8:30AM - 9am with parents presumably dropping their kids off to the neighborhood school which starts classes at 9AM. From there busyness is relatively stable throughout the day. Busyness begins to drop right down again at 7PM when most people are home from work, and reaches it's minimum at around 3am.

Traffic Busyness detected with KerberosSDR Passive Radar
Traffic Busyness detected with KerberosSDR Passive Radar

One limitation is that this system cannot detect vehicles that are not moving (i.e. stuck in standstill traffic). Since the doppler speed return will be zero, resulting in no ping on the radar display. The detection of ground traffic can also be distorted by aircraft flying nearby. Aircraft detections result in strong blips on the radar display which can give a false traffic result.

It would also be possible to further break down the data. We could determine the overall direction of traffic flow by looking at the positive and negative doppler shifts, and also break down busyness by distance and determine which distances correspond to particular roads. In the future we hope to be able to use the additional channels on the KerberosSDR to combine passive radar and direction finding, so that the the blips can actually be directly plotted on a map.

If you want to try something similar on the KerberosSDR software edit the RD_plot function in the _GUI/hydra_main_window.py file, and add the following simple code before CAFMatrix is normalized. You'll then get a log file traffic.txt which can be plotted in excel (remember to convert Unix time to real time and apply a moving average)

CAFMatrixSum = np.sum(CAFMatrix)
trafficLog = open("traffic.txt", "a")
logString = str(round(time.time())) + "," + str(round(CAFMatrixSum)) + "\r\n"
trafficLog.write(logString) 
trafficLog.close()

New Product in Store: RTL-SDR Blog Magnetic Whip Antenna Set (Great for KerberosSDR Direction Finding)

We've recently released a new Magnetic Whip Antenna Set in our store. The set consists of a heavy duty magnetic mount antenna base with 2M RG59, a 9.5cm fixed whip antenna (usable from 400 MHz to 2 GHz+), and a 17cm to 1m telescopic whip (usable from 100 MHz - 400 MHz).

Click Here to Visit our Store

The antenna set costs US$14.95 each with free shipping. And if you buy four sets you will receive a 15% discount. Currently available to ship worldwide right now from our warehouse in China, and they will be on Amazon in 2-3 weeks.

One application of our KerberosSDR 4-Tuner Coherent RTL-SDR is radio direction finding. This requires four quality omni-directional antennas. We were disappointed to find that there were no high quality magnetic whip antennas available on the market for a low price that we could use with KerberosSDR so we made our own.

The magnetic base is designed carefully with conductive metal that is properly connected to the shield of the coax cable. Most cheap antenna bases just leave the shield connection floating and this causes insufficient coupling to the underlying ground plane resulting in poor performance and poor results when it comes to direction finding and reception.

We've tested this set with KerberosSDR and it is known to work well. The antenna can also of course be used for any other receiving purpose if you prefer to use a whip antenna over our multipurpose dipole antenna set.

In the first two images in the image slider below you can see a comparison between a black base that is not properly bonded to the coax shield, vs the RTL-SDR Blog silver base which is correctly bonded to the coax shield. Both tests used the 9.5cm whip antenna. You can see that the RTL-SDR Blog silver base provides a much lower noise floor and higher signal SNR due to the better ground plane. Also we note that when placing the antenna bases on a metallic surface to create a larger ground plane, the black base showed no further improvement, whereas the RTL-SDR Blog silver base did.

The final three images in the slider show the SWR plots of the two whips on the base. We can see that the 9.5cm whip provides an SWR of less than six below 412 MHz. The telescopic whip can be adjusted to provide better SWR for lower frequencies.

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

Loading image... Loading image... Loading image... Loading image... Loading image...

KerberosSDR Batch 2 Ships Soon! Pricing will Rise on Monday

KerberosSDR Batch 2 will begin shipping very soon! Thank you to all who have supported this project so far. If you didn't already know KerberosSDR is our experimental 4x Coherent RTL-SDR product made in partnership with Othernet. With it, coherent applications like radio direction finding (RDF), passive radar and beam forming are possible.

We just wanted to note that this Monday the reduced preorder pricing of US$130 + shipping will end, and the price will rise to the retail price of $149.95 + shipping. So if you have been thinking about ordering a unit, now would be a good time. Ordering is currently possible through Indiegogo. On Monday we will change to our own store. EDIT: Now available to purchase on the Othernet Store.

For shipping, US orders will be sent domestically from Othernet's office in Chicago. They are still waiting on the US shipment to arrive, but it is expected to arrive by the end of next week. Once shipped locally you will receive a shipment notification.

For international orders, the packages are being labelled now, and should be going out early next week, or sooner.

KerberosSDR Inside and Outside the Enclosure
KerberosSDR Inside and Outside the Enclosure

Future Updates to KerberosSDR

With the profits raised from KerberosSDR sales we are looking to continue funding development on the open source server software and visualization software being created (as well as applying updates ourselves). In future updates we will be looking at features such as:

  • Streamlining the sample and phase sync calibration process.
  • Experimenting with software notch filters for calibration (may reduce the need to disconnect the antennas during calibration).
  • Reworking the buffering code for improved sample ingestion performance and increased averaging.
  • Direction finding and passive radar algorithm improvements.
  • Creating a networked web application for combining data from two or more physically distributed KerberosSDRs over the internet for immediate TX localization.
  • Updates and bug fixes for the Android mobile direction finding app for use in vehicles.
  • Improving passive radar to be able to use all four RX ports for surveillance so that larger areas can be covered.
  • Plotting passive radar pings on a map.
  • Beginning experimentation with beam forming.
  • In the farther future we hope to eventually have even more clever software that can do things like locate multiple signals in the bandwidth at once, automatically plot them on a map, and track them via their unique RF fingerprint, or other identifiers.
  • Future hardware updates may see more streamlined calibration and smaller sizes.
KerberosSDR Android App for Direction Finding
KerberosSDR Android App for Direction Finding

SignalsEverywhere: Driving around with KerberosSDR and Locating a P25 Transmitter

On this weeks episode of SignalsEverywhere, host Corrosive tests out our KerberosSDR coherent RTL-SDR unit for radio direction finding. If you didn't already know KerberosSDR is our experimental 4x Coherent RTL-SDR product. With it, coherent applications like radio direction finding (RDF) and passive radar are possible. Together with the KerberosSDR direction finding Android app it is possible to visualize the direction finding data produced by a KerberosSDR running on a Pi3/Tinkerboard.

In the video Corrosive uses the KerberosSDR together with the recently updated companion Android app to determine the location of a P25 control channel. By driving around with the app constantly collecting data he's able to pinpoint the location within about 15 minutes.

If this interests you, we also have some more driving demo videos available here.

Direction Finding With Kerberos SDR

In addition to his video, Corrosive has also created a very useful calculator that can be used to calculate the required antenna spacing for a circular or linear direction finding array that can be used with the KerberosSDR.

KerberosSDR App Update: Heatmap + Precise TX Localizing & Turn by Turn Navigation Demo Videos

We have just released an updated version of the KerberosSDR Android direction finding app. If you didn't already know KerberosSDR is our experimental 4x Coherent RTL-SDR product. With it, coherent applications like radio direction finding (RDF) and passive radar are possible. Together with the KerberosSDR direction finding Android app it is possible to visualize the direction finding data produced by a KerberosSDR running on a Pi3/Tinkerboard.

The KerberosSDR hardware is currently in preorder status on Indiegogo for the second production batch, and we expect it to be ready to ship out this month. If you preorder then you'll be able to purchase a KerberosSDR at a reduced price of USD$130. After shipping for batch two begins the price will rise to USD$150.

The new version of the KerberosSDR Android app adds the following features:

  1. Heatmap Grid Plotting
  2. Precise TX location pinpointing when enough data points are gathered
  3. Turn by turn navigation to the RDF bearing direction / TX location
  4. Bearing moving average smoothing

To understand what these features are, we've released two demo videos showing them in action. In the first video we use the new features to find an 858 MHz TETRA transmitter, and in the second video we find a 415 MHz DMR transmitter. The first video explains the new features so we recommend watching that first.

KerberosSDR Radio Direction Finding: Heatmap + Auto Navigation to Transmitter Location Demo 1

KerberosSDR Radio Direction Finding: Heatmap + Auto Navigation to Transmitter Location Demo 2

Upcoming KerberosSDR Software Updates: Automatically Estimate TX Location and Navigate There

KerberosSDR is our 4x Coherent RTL-SDR that we've developed together with Othernet. It can be used for tasks such as direction finding and passive radar. KerberosSDR was successfully crowdfunded over on Indiegogo, and the first batch has already been shipped. Currently we are taking discounted pre-orders for a second production batch on Indiegogo. Please note that the discounted pricing will expire when we ship, which according to the manufacturing schedule should be next month, so please get in quick if you're interested!

If you'd like to back the KerberosSDR project and purchase a unit, please see our Indiegogo page.

Below are some recent updates to the project:

Android App Software Improvements

The Android App allows a KerberosSDR user to drive around in a car, collecting angle of arrival data for a signal. Driving around and collecting multiple data points solves the multipath issue. In a single location it is possible for a signal's direction of arrival to be skewed or incorrect as it can bounce off multiple surfaces and appear to be arriving from a wrong direction. If we collect data from many locations, we can average out the multipath.

We've recently been working on improvements to the direction finding capabilities of the KerberosSDR, and in particular to our free Android App which records and plots data from the KerberosSDR server. We are still testing and finalizing these new features, but hope to release the updated app before the end of this month.

Recently added features to the app include:

  • Added the ability to determine the estimated location of a transmitter, providing there has been sufficient data collected.
  • Added a heatmap grid of the collected data which can be used to determine where most angle lines cross. Can take into account RF power data too.
  • Added the ability for the software to automatically navigate you to the estimated TX location via MapBox GPS turn by turn navigation.

Bellow are screenshots showing some of the new features. In this experiment we located an 858 MHz TETRA transmit tower. Initially the app will navigate you to the edge of the grid, in the direction that most DoA lines are pointing to. When there is sufficient data to be able to confidently pinpoint the TX location, it will begin navigating you to the estimated location. In the screenshots the placemarker represents the known location of the transmitter, and the circles indicate the location estimated from direction finding.

Below is screenshots from a 415 MHz DMR tower that we located with KerberosSDR. The antenna array was purposely kept small, with a diameter of only 12cm. Even with the small antenna array we were able to pinpoint the transmitter down to about 100 - 200 meters.

The app should also now be able to handle intermittent signals, via a squelch filtering function, although this has not been fully tested yet.

In order to navigate you must have a 3G/4G data plan on your phone, and your phone must have the ability to create a WiFi hotspot. The KerberosSDR server running on a Pi 3 or similar will then automatically connect to a WiFi hotspot named "KerberosSDR" running on your phone and provide data to the app via WiFi.

Batch 2 Manufacturing Updates

Batch 2 production is in full swing, and at the moment we're expecting completion by mid August. This batch will ship directly from China, so we should be able to ship them off fairly quickly rather than needing to first wait for them to arrive in the USA.

Magnetic Whip Antennas

We have been disappointed that it has been difficult to find low cost but good quality magnetic whip antennas to use with KerberosSDR and vehicles. The quality of antennas used in direction finding equipment can matter, as any signals leaking into the coax, or radiation pattern skew can affect results. We are working on sourcing some high quality magnetic whip antennas that have good ground coupling. These will be sold at a reasonable price on our store.

Future Updates

We are still working on improving the server software further too and future updates will include things like the ability to notch out unwanted signals during phase calibration, a simplified DoA set up wizard, an improved buffering scheme so that additional data and processing gain can be applied, and more.

The Raspberry Pi 4 looks to be an excellent candidate to be used with the KerberosSDR. We will begin releasing ready to use images for the Pi 4 in the future.

Thanks!

Every sale of a KerberosSDR helps fund further developments to the software and possible future iterations of the hardware. So we'd like to thank all backers once again!

SignalsEverywhere: What SDR To Buy? Choose the Right one For You

Over on his YouTube channel SignalsEverywhere, Corrosive has just released a new video titled "Software Defined Radio Introduction | What SDR To Buy? | Choose the Right one For You". The video is an introduction to low cost software defined radios and could be useful if you're wondering which SDR you should purchase.

The video includes a brief overview of the Airspy, KerberosSDR, PlutoSDR, LimeSDR Mini, HackRF, SDRplay RSPduo and various RTL-SDR dongles. In addition to the hardware itself Corrosive also discusses the compatible software available for each SDR.

Software Defined Radio Introduction | What SDR To Buy? | Choose the Right one For You

KerberosSDR Direction Finding with Android App Demo and Tutorial

Over on our YouTube channel we've uploaded a short video that gives a tutorial and demo of the KerberosSDR being used as an RF direction finding system in a car. If you weren't aware, KerberosSDR is our recently released 4x Coherent RTL-SDR which can be used for tasks such as direction finding and passive radar. KerberosSDR was successfully crowdfunded over on Indiegogo, and we have recently completed shipments to all backers. Currently we are taking discounted pre-orders for a second production batch on Indiegogo.

In the video we use a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ running the KerberosSDR image as the computing hardware. The Pi 3 is connected to a high capacity battery pack. It is important to use a high quality battery pack that can output 3A continuously as this is required for the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ to run without  throttling. The battery pack we used has multiple outputs so we also power the KerberosSDR with it.

Once powered up we connect to the KerberosPi WiFi hotspot, and then browse to the web interface page. We then tune the KerberosSDR to a TETRA signal at 858 MHz, perform sample and phase calibration, set the decimation and FIR filtering, and then enable the direction finding algorithm. At this point we enter the Android app and begin direction finding and logging our data.

After driving for a few minutes we stop and check the logfile and find that the majority of the bearing lines point in one direction. With this info, a drive in the direction of the bearing points to gather more data is performed. Once additional data was gathered we open the log file up again, and see where all the bearing lines cross. Where they cross indicates the location of the 858 MHz transmitter. The heatmap data also gives us a second confirmation that the transmitter is located where we think.

NOTE: Some of the features shown in the video like the heatmap, confidence settings and plot length settings are not yet released in the current version of the app. They will be released next week.

Full instruction on using the KerberosSDR are available at rtl-sdr.com/ksdr.

KerberosSDR Direction Finding With Android App Demo and Tutorial