Tagged: Software-defined radio

The Artificial Intelligence Radio – Transceiver

Over on Crowd funding site Crowd Supply, a new SDR product is currently awaiting release of its crowd funding stage. The proposed product is called the AIR-T, which stands for Artificial Intelligence Radio - Transceiver. The basic idea behind the board is to combine a 2x2 MIMO SDR transceiver with a NVIDIA Jetson TX2 GPU that can be used to run artificial intelligence (AI) software fast.

The SDR transceiver chip used is a Analog Devices 9371. This is a high end chip that can be found on high end SDR hardware like USRPs. If you're interested we had a post about decapping the AD9361 recently, which is a similar chip. It provides 2x2 MIMO channels, with up to 100 MHz RX bandwidth and 250 MHz TX bandwidth. The NVDIA Jetson TX2 is a GPU 'supercomputer' module specifically designed for AI processing. Many AI/machine learning algorithms, such as neural networks and deep learning run significantly faster on GPU type processors when compared to more general CPU's.

These are not cheap chips with the AD9371 coming in at over US$250 each, and the Jetson TX2 coming in at US $467. Although we don't know what sort of bulk discounts the AIR-T manufactures could get. But it will be certain that the AIR-T will not be for the budget minded.

The board is still awaiting release of it's crowdfunding round, and you can sign up to be notified of when the project launches on their Crowd Supply page.

The melding of AI and the RF spectrum will be common in the future, and a development board like this is one of the first steps. Some of the interesting use cases that they present are pasted below:


From Wi-Fi to OpenBTS, use deep learning to maximize these applications. By pairing a GPU directly with an RF front-end it eliminates the need of having to purchase an additional computer or server for processing. Just power the AIR-T on and plug in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and get started. Use GNURadio blocks to quickly develop and deploy your current or new wireless system. For those who need more control, talk directly with the drivers using Python or C+. And for those superusers out there, the AIR-T is an open-platform, so you can program the FPGA and GPU directly.

Satellite Communications

Communicating past Pluto is hard. With the power of a single-board SDR with an embedded GPU, the AIR-T can certainly prove out concepts before you launch them into space. Reduce development time and costs by adding deep learning to your satellite communication system.

Ground Communications

There is an endless number of terrestrial communication systems with more being developed every day. As the spectral density becomes more congested, AI will be needed to maximize these resources. The AIR-T is well-positioned to easily and quickly help you prototype and deploy your wireless system.

Video/Image/Audio Recognition

The AIR-T allows you to demodulate a signal and apply deep learning to the image, video, or audio data in one integrated platform. For example, directly receiving a signal that contains audio and peforming speech recognition previously required multiple devices. The AIR-T integrates this into one easy to use package. Whatever your application is, from speech recognition to digital signal processing, the integrated NVIDIA GPU will jump start your applications.

Pattern Recognition

For many communications and radar applications once the signal is collected it must be sent to an off-board computer for additional processing and storage. This consumes valuable time. The AIR-T eliminates this. From its inception, it was designed to process signals in real-time and eliminate unnecessary latency.

Software Defined Radio Talks from the Friedrichshafen Ham Radio Convention

Several new software defined radio talks have been released on YouTube this week from the big European 2018 Friedrichshafen Ham Radio Convention which just finished this month. The full list of 14 new videos can be found on the Software Defined Radio Academy YouTube channel. Below are two of our favorites:

The OVI40 / UHSDR Project, Developing An Open Standalone SDR

OVI40 is an Open Source standalone homewbrew SDR TRX project (VLF to 2m), developed with the aim of being modular and future-proof. The talk describes the hardware and the UHSDR software including a discussion on the evolution from the "single-system" software used for the well-known mcHF (initially written by Chris, M0NKA and Clint KA7OEI) to the multi-SDR approach in the UHSDR software project.

DF8OE, DB4PLE, DL2FW, DD4WH: The OVI40 / UHSDR Project - Part 1 and 2
DF8OE, DB4PLE, DL2FW, DD4WH: The OVI40 / UHSDR Project - Part 1 and 2

András Retzler, HA7ILM: Let's code a simple receiver in C

For using SDR in amateur radio applications, it is easier to use existing receiver software, or create GNU Radio flowgraphs with pre-build blocks. On the contrary, in the do-it-yourself spirit of amateur radio, this talk will guide you through the steps of implementing a simple AM/FM/SSB receiver from scratch, in plan old C, in order to get a deeper understanding of what happens actually under the hood in popular SDR software. The talk builds on the author's learning experience of creating the open source CSDR command line tool, which is used for DSP in the OpneWebRX web based SDR receiver.

András Retzler, HA7ILM: Let's code a simple receiver in C
András Retzler, HA7ILM: Let's code a simple receiver in C

Software Defined Radio for Engineers: Free University Level Text Book with PlutoSDR Examples

Analog Devices has recently released a new text book for free called "Software-Defined Radio for Engineers, 2018". This is an advanced university level text book that covers communication systems theory as well as software defined radio theory and practice. The book uses the PlutoSDR as reference hardware and for practical examples. The PlutoSDR is Analog Devices $150 RX/TX capable SDR that was released about a year ago.

The objective of this book is to provide a hands-on learning experience using Software Defined Radio for engineering students and industry practitioners who are interested in mastering the design, implementation, and experimentation of communication systems. This book provides a fresh perspective on understanding and creating new communication systems from scratch. Communication system engineers need to understand the impact of the hardware on the performance of the communication algorithms being used and how well the overall system operates in terms of successfully recovering the intercepted signal.

This book is written for both industry practitioners who are seeking to enhance their skill set by learning about the design and implementation of communication systems using SDR technology, as well as both undergraduate and graduate students who would like to learn about and master communication systems technology in order to become the next generation of industry practitioners and academic researchers. The book contains theoretical explanations about the various elements forming a communication system, practical hands-on examples and lessons that help synthesize these concepts, and a wealth of important facts and details to take into consideration when building a real-world communication system.

The companion site for the book which contains links to complimentary online lectures, slides, and example MATLAB code can be found at https://sdrforengineers.github.io. MATLAB is a very powerful programming language and toolset used by scientists and engineers. MATLAB is not a cheap tool, but there is a home user licence available for a more reasonable price. To do some of the exercises in the book you'll probably at least require the core MATLAB plus the Communications System Toolkit which is an extra add on.

The full book can be purchased as a Hardcover from Amazon, or downloaded freely online as a PDF.

If you're interested in a similar book, there is also the free DesktopSDR book which uses RTL-SDR dongles for the practical examples.

SDR For Engineers Book
SDR For Engineers Book

An Intro to RTL-SDR: Technical DSP Concepts Explained

Over on his blog Ajoo has posted a very comprehensive introduction to the technical concepts behind RTL-SDR, as well as any other SDR in existence. His post first goes through the basic communications theory and mathematical concepts required to understand the technical concepts behind software defined radio. He then goes on to specifically discuss the RTL-SDR and how it works internally, mentioning what the major components do and providing useful block diagrams.

In part II of his introduction he moves on to the software. Here he starts to explain a bit about librtlsdr and how the RTL-SDR drivers and codebase is put together. Further on he explains higher level software such as rtl_test, rtl_fm, rtl_sdr, the pyrtlsdr wrapper and how it could be used to demodulate FM.

If you're looking at diving deeper into SDR theory then Ajoo's posts are excellent starting points. Note that the theory explanations come at about an undergraduate University level of complexity, and thus these posts are mostly for people wanting a deeper understanding of SDR. To simply use an RTL-SDR to receive signals such a deep level of understanding is not required.

In a future post which is not yet available, Ajoo will introduce GNU Radio and show how to demodulate FM signals. It appears his goal is to work his way to an understanding of how GPS L1 signals work.

One of Ajoo's block diagrams explaining the RTL-SDR behavioral model.
One of Ajoo's block diagrams explaining the RTL-SDR behavioral model.

Uniden Announce the SDS100: A Software Defined Handheld Scanner

The Uniden SDS100 Handheld SDR Based Scanner
The Uniden SDS100 Handheld SDR Based Scanner

Radio manufacturer Uniden have just released news about their latest product called the SDS100 which is a handheld software defined radio scanner specifically for digital voice and trunking modes. The scanner will retail for USD699, and aims to be released in the 2nd quarter of 2018 pending FCC approval. Note that certain software decoders will require paid upgrades, but it will be capable of all the major digital voice modes such as P25 Phase I and II, DMR, NXDN and trunking modes. It doesn't seem to support TETRA since it's marketed at the American consumer, however, it seems plausible that simple software update could enable this feature in the future.

As far as we know this is the first handheld scanner to incorporate SDR and is probably one of the bigger leaps in scanner technology to date. Compared to hardware based scanners, the SDS100 should provide significantly better decoding capabilities, even in weak signal and simulcast conditions. Simulcast is when multiple overlapping base stations transmit a signal at the same frequency. This can cause multi-path distortion problems, but an IQ based radio like an SDR is able to overcome these issues.

Uniden creates another first with the SDS100 True I/Q Scanner, the first scanner to incorporate Software Defined Radio technology to provide incredible digital performance in even the most challenging RF environments. The SDS100’s digital performance is better than any other scanner in both simulcast and weak-signal environments.

The SDS100 is also the first scanner that allows you to decide what to display, where, and in what color. Custom fields put the information important to you right where you need it.

And, one more first, the SDS100 meets JIS4 (IPX4) standards for water resistance.

For more information you can check out this discussion thread on Radio Reference. In the future there should also be some videos of it in action available on the Uniden YouTube channel. The owners manual is also available here and all their promo material including many more demonstration videos can be found on their Google Drive.

Nexmon SDR: Turning a Broadcom 802.11ac WiFi Chip into a TX Capable Software Defined Radio

Over on GitHub we've recently seen the release of some interesting code called "Nexmon Software Defined Radio" which demonstrates a discovery that allows a Broadcom 802.11ac WiFi chip to be used as a transmit capable software defined radio. This means that it can be used to transmit (within the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi bands) any arbitrary signal from IQ data. The specific WiFi chip used in their experiments is the US$10 BCM4339 which has been found in smartphones such as the Nexus 5. It's not clear if other Broadcom 802.11ac WiFi chips could also work.

To begin with Nexmon SDR you'll need a development environment set up on a Nexus 5 smartphone. Then it's a matter of downloading the dependencies, installing the Android NDK, and compiling Nexmon. IQ data can then be transmitted in code using from special system commands.

The Nexmon team have indicated on Twitter that they plan to present a paper with more information on Nexmon SDR at the MobiSys 2018 conference which will be held in June.

FOSDEM 2017/2018 SDR Conference Videos: Passive Radar, Radio Telescopes, SatNOGS and Wireless Traffic Lights

Fosdem 2017 and 2018 were conferences on software development that occurred on 4 & 5 February 2017 and 3 & 4 February 2018. The conference features several software defined radio and RTL-SDR based talks which appear to have recently been uploaded to YouTube. Below we're posting some of our favorite SDR related talks, but the full video list can be found here, and here is the SDR playlist from Fosdem 2018.

(Yet another) passive RADAR using DVB-T receiver and SDR

by Jean-Michel Friedt @ FOSDEM 2018

In this presentation Jean-Michel shows a GNU Radio passive radar implementation utilizing two coherent RTL-SDR dongles. During the talk he demonstrates his results with RTL-SDR passive radar operating on planes, boats and cars.

Slides: http://jmfriedt.free.fr/fosdem2018.pdf
Paper: http://jmfriedt.free.fr/URSI.pdf

(Yet another) passive RADAR using DVB-T receiver and SDR.
(Yet another) passive RADAR using DVB-T receiver and SDR.

Intro to Open Source Radio Telescopes

by Martin Braun and Sue Ann Heatherly @ FOSDEM 2018

In this talk Martin and Sue discuss how amateur radio astronomy can be performed using lost cost software defined radio tools such as an RTL-SDR. They show how to receive solar flares and detect the 21cm hydrogen line and focus on showing how easy it can be to do these projects in a classroom environment.

Intro to Open Source Radio Telescopes
Intro to Open Source Radio Telescopes

Claim Space, the Libre Way, using SDRs

by Manolis Surligas @ FOSDEM 2018

In this talk Manolis from the Libre Space Foundation and SatNOGs discusses how they use RTL-SDR's and other SDR's in their volunteer run network of satellite ground stations to create an online database of received satellite data.

Claim Space, the Libre Way, using SDRs
Claim Space, the Libre Way, using SDRs

Receiving Wireless Mobile Traffic Lights

by Bastian Bloessl @ FOSDEM 2017

Wireless mobile traffic lights are often used to secure construction sites when roads are partially blocked. Some day, when a pair of them was placed close to our home, I set off to explore how they are working. In this talk, I will describe how I used a cheap RTL-SDR together with GQRX, Inspectrum, and GNU Radio to reverse engineer the modulation and frame format of different types of wireless traffic lights. With some patience, I could also make some sense out of the bits. In particular, I was able to extract the signal state and display it in a web interface, mirroring the traffic light. A closer look at the frame format and the apparent absence of any authentication might leave one with a bit of a worrying impression regarding the security of those systems.

Receiving Wireless Mobile Traffic Lights
Receiving Wireless Mobile Traffic Lights

Building an IcoBoard FPGA based Software Defined Radio

The IcoBoard is an FPGA IO board that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi. An FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) is a silicon chip that can implement custom digital circuits (such as DSP processors) and be reconfigured with different circuits many times. Other silicon chips are ASICs (application specific integrated circuit) which have circuits that are set in stone.

Over on YouTube OpenTechLab has been trying to create a software defined radio with his IcoBoard FPGA. To do this he's combined it with an audio A2D/D2A (analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog) converter board and a Raspberry Pi. The video goes through the entire design process, including A2D/D2A selection and purchasing, PCB adapter design in KiCad, soldering the PCB, as well as 3D printing a frame.

In the last part of the video he does a simple test where a signal is input into the A2D converter, converted to digital and processed by the FPGA. The circuitry programmed into the FPGA then simply outputs the received data to the D2A which converts it back into an analog signal. In the next steps of the project OpenTechLab hopes to work on the software and turn it into a full SDR. Show notes for the video are available here.

[014] IcoBoard Software Defined Radio Project - Hardware
[014] IcoBoard Software Defined Radio Project - Hardware