Although communication needs of military and security response teams appear vastly different, at their core they are very similar. Effective communication and transfer of information is critical in both industries as lives are at risk if they are not done quickly and effectively.
By Sausan Arebi, Technical Writer, Per Vices Corporation
The three major communication impediments that both industries face are interoperability, reliability, and the ability to keep pace in an ever-changing environment. Communication and data transfer are now at the centre of both operations, it is essential that they be done reliably and accurately, despite conditions, to ensure success. As well, with custom protocols constantly changing and requiring updates, communication devices have the added requirement of needing to adapt.
Military forces depend on the ability to communicate across teams and missions securely, efficiently, and reliably. These teams require a method of transferring large quantities of data without lag or interference, meaning that solutions must offer the necessary wide bandwidths and operate at the appropriate frequencies while (de)modulating complex waveforms, and handling encryption for added security.
These communication devices must also fulfil the role of scanning, detecting and analysing signals, and, if need be, jamming them. There is a further need for equipment to handle other mission critical applications such as signals intelligence, counter-IED, and electronic warfare. Software Defined Radio platforms can offer a solution to all of these requirements.
Crisis and disaster response teams require responders of different agencies and multiple forces- fire, paramedics, and police- to communicate despite operating on different frequencies and using different modulation schemes. The selected communication device must also fulfil the need for public safety teams to have more robust, resilient, and reliable networks that use the spectrum intensively for increased quantities of data at higher rates, while maintaining efficiency.
The implementation of any new system must take legacy equipment into account in order to reduce cost, ensure there are no gaps between implementation and use, and reduce the time necessary for mass use. The ability for public safety teams to communicate and share critical information is directly linked with their ability to save lives.
Wireless communication devices that are being used by military and public safety forces, with pre-determined and fixed functionality, no longer offer the features necessary to keep pace. Both industries rely on static, bulky, special-purpose radio equipment that has limited interoperability due to incompatible wireless communication systems that use different protocols. These solutions are limited to transmission and reception on narrow bands in the spectrum and require expensive, proprietary modifications or overhauls in order to adapt to necessary changes.
Software defined radio (SDR), which consists of modular hardware and a combination of pre-defined and user-defined software, offers a solution to both industries’ problems while also holding the ability to enhance funtionality demanded by these industries. Through the implementation of SDR, interoperability is no longer a problem.
It offers a unified, multi-functional platform, which allows users to transmit information across the wireless spectrum, eliminating communication issues with disparate devices and adding the benefits of low latency, point-to-point communications, without the need to change existing hardware. By shifting the focus from hardware to software, SDRs have gained the ability to alter their mode of operation, allowing for interoperability.
In a state of emergency, this means that SDRs can communicate by receiving on one band and rebroadcasting on another, while taking advantage of MIMO technology, allowing for sending and receiving data simultaneously and over different paths. SDRs also offer the benefits of operating over a wide frequency range enabling more access to data, avoidance of interference, extended signal analysis, and additional applications.
They allow for more advanced communications capabilities, especially applicable in warfare, by providing signal collection and analysis, eliminating the need for additional bulky equipment and providing users with a competitive edge and an added level of intelligence.
SDR also offers users with more accuracy and reliability, by combining high-bandwidth and spectrum efficiency, they are able to take full advantage of the spectrum and ensure that necessary communication and data are transferred. SDRs also have the advantage of implementing security measures by operating at different frequencies and different waveforms, transferring data across different parts of the spectrum and using different waveforms when necessary, and are able to remain up to speed with security developments.
These security measures are further enhanced through spread-spectrum monitoring. By shifting the complexity to software, SDRs have the added capacity to act as a cognitive radio (CR), permitting for radio link management. This allows for more efficient spectrum usage and high-speed data communications; CRs are able to learn and adapt, deciding on the best and most efficient waveform to use, allowing for uninterrupted and low latency data transfer.
Through implementing SDRs into these industries, legacy equipment can continue to be used while the entire system is upgraded. This ensures the reduction of time and cost to market. Additionally, in these applications especially, it is essential for equipment to be thoroughly tested in order to prevent any possibility for problems or unforeseen scenarios when applied in these very sensitive circumstances. SDRs act as test equipment as well by simulating real-life circumstances and scenarios in order to enhance the reliability of these systems.
Potentially the most enticing aspect of software defined radio, is the level of flexibility it offers users. With wireless protocols continuously being introduced and standards being altered, a flexible platform has become necessary for security and public-safety use.
SDR provides a significant advantage over traditional radio by providing the ability to evolve through software modifications and updates, a much less costly and faster alternative to the previous method of constantly purchasing up-to-date equipment. They are capable of adapting to a changing environment, making them future-proof and empowering users to do more. By supporting multiple applications, using the same hardware base, they offer further flexibility through an application-agnostic system.
Commercial off the shelf (COTS) options are offering alternative solutions for SDR applications, with added benefits, such as the ability to release products to the market more quickly, a push for more innovations, and allowing for the development of new features. By combining the components in new and inventive ways, the security and public safety domains have a stronger chance at meeting emerging threats. Many companies are identifying the opportunities in the SDR industry and offering more competitive products.
One of these is Per Vices’ Cyan, the company’s latest SDR, offering the highest bandwidth on a compact radio platform and an impressive Stratic 10 FPGA. Offering for multiple (de)modulation schemes, which is important in both industries as it allows for uninterrupted and secure communication across the spectrum with any device and in any circumstance.