Nutaq ZeptoSDR now supports GNU Radio embedded in ARM’s Zynq FPGA

The worldwide community for software-defined radios (SDR) is increasingly becoming interested in the GNU Radio toolkit. The ability to share and benefit from all of the wireless intellectual property developed by this large community of users has attracted both PC-based radio hobbyists as well as industry. The technology, now trusted, can greatly accelerate the development cycles of wireless products.

Today, this expanded PC-based radio community is looking to push the barrier even further by cutting the PC cord altogether. They are now looking to embed their radios developed with GNU Radio into low-power and portable hardware architectures. The new software release for Nutaq’s ZeptoSDR platform directly addresses this need.

The ZeptoSDR, based on the Xilinx Zynq device, combines the power of an ARM-based dual-core processor with FPGA logic onto a system on a chip (SoC) integrated circuit (IC), thus reducing the number of components, the total cost, and the overall power dissipation. The ZeptoSDR’s newly released software expands the user’s capabilities: not only can they develop PC-based waveforms using GNU Radio on a remote PC connected via Gigabit Ethernet, they can now embed the developed waveform on the ARM dual-core processor within the Zynq SoC and cut the Ethernet cord altogether.

Based on the ZedBoard from Avnet, the ZeptoSDR is a small table-top enclosure that encapsulates the Xilinx Zynq-based platform and the Nutaq’s Radio420S tunable RF card. ZeptoSDR users may also benefit from ZedBoard’s open-source community, again speeding up wireless development.

The proposed Nutaq SDR architecture combines the Zynq SoC (FPGA + ARM) and the RF LMS6002D IC from the Nutaq Radio420S in order to provide a portable wireless architecture that reduces the required components to two main parts.

The Radio420S contains an SoC-integrated RF device, the LMS6002D – the first (and currently only) SoC RF in wide-spread distribution. The SoC RF includes a direct RF-to-baseband convertor with integrated analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) samplers. This minimizes complexity, reduces the effects of inter-component mismatch, and protects against overall external noise pickup. For a more technical description of the advantages of an SoC RF, see this article.

Lastly, to avoid migration pains when transitioning from a remote development framework to an embedded development framework, Nutaq uses the exact same API calls! See this blog post for additional information on the API.

Stay tuned for a new blog post later this month showing the magic code behind it all.