A Radio That Thinks — and Other Assured Communication Topics

Designing a radio that thinks

Sikorsky 25K Entrepreneurial Challenge
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A cognitive radio does appear to think, if you include sensing, choosing and observation to be within the realm of thinking. A cognitive radio searches for unused frequencies through which it sends information. While traditional radio transmitters are confined to a specific regulated frequency, cognitive radios, using software based on algorithms, can switch signals to the unused spaces between used frequencies.

Several companies are developing solutions based on cognitive radio, with a goal of providing continuous communications in any type of environment.

Filling white space with information
Shared Spectrum Company, also called SSC, is based in Vienna, Virginia. It has been a pioneer in the development of a protocol called Dynamic Spectrum Access.
The IEEE describes DSA as a spectrum-sharing paradigm that allows so-called secondary users to fill the holes or “white spaces” between licensed bands. A cognitive radio finds the unused bands and connects multiple users.

The result could be lower costs for communication systems within relatively small areas, such as buildings, but it could also be used to ensure that communication during difficult situations, such as weather events or combat, continues without disruption.

A cognitive radio solution could provide a competitive solution for one of the focus areas in the Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge now underway. While increased use of the electromagnetic frequency spectrum creates multi-path and fading issues, solving those problems could lead to new communication breakthroughs.

Increase the number of antennae to improve reliability
There are other potential solutions to extend and harden communications systems as well.

A company named Nutaq of Canada makes equipment that exploits multiple antenna, or MIMO, technology. The software for such a multi-node system must be able to efficiently transfer signals via the most efficient connections in order to not use too much energy or increase costs, but its use of hundreds or thousands of antennas makes it incredibly robust because communications can be maintained even if some antennas are lost.

Nutac is also advancing high-speed networks that connect sensors and communicate information they gather via wireless and wired Internet connections.

If you can fix the subway…
The New York subway system isn’t exactly a war zone but it is the scene of vibration, noise, moisture (during power washing), dust and temperature spikes. A company called SOLiD, of Sunnyvale, California, uses Distributed Antenna Systems, an array of smaller nodes that cover the same area as one larger antenna. The nodes, attached to subway platform ceilings, use less power but are more reliable and can serve more customers.

If you think you have a solution to the EChallenge’s Focus Area No. 2, Adaptive Communications for Assured Data Exchange, apply today. You may become a partner with Sikorsky in the next manufacturing innovation.



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