The 9th International Conference on Cognitive Radio Oriented Wireless Networks (CROWNCOM) was held in Oulu, Finland, on June 2–4, 2014. Being responsible for the European, Middle East, and African markets at Nutaq, I could not miss attending this leading conference.

The conference’s program speaks for itself

[2] and showcases papers from both academia and industry, a mixture of which I appreciated a lot and looked for to. During the conference, three workshops were conducted:

  1. DUPLO Workshop on Full-Duplex Radios and Systems [3]
  2. TRIAL Workshop on Cognitive Radio Testbeds [4]
  3. NEWCOM Special Session on Cognitive Radio/Networks and Related Issues [5]

I would like to highlight the TRIAL workshop. It was truly remarkable to see so many research initiatives with strong, practical approaches. One of them is CorteXlab, at INSA-Lyon, a laboratory consisting of dozens of software-defined radio (SDR) nodes in a highly shielded environment. It is one of the world’s largest cognitive radio laboratories and is composed of a mix of nodes – wireless sensor network nodes along with SDR nodes. The latter ones provide a high level of RF flexibility, making it easy to tune the operating frequency, channel bandwidth, emitted power, and waveform. Having an isolated room, partly covered with EM absorbing material, the testbed enable you to control the radio channel characteristics and to ensure a high level of reproducibility in your experiments.

The CorteXlab radio nodes are USRPs from NI and PicoSDRs from Nutaq [6]. The latter enable PHY layer implementations in both hardware (FPGAs) and software (general-purpose CPUs). Figure 1 shows Dr. Leonardo Cardoso explaining the benefits of using PicoSDR during his presentation at the TRIAL workshop. Researchers from INSA recently published a very interesting paper describing FPGA-based implementations of multiple IEEE 802.15.4 PHY-layers. Do have a look.

Figure 1: Dr. Leonardo S. Cardoso from INRIA talking about Nutaq's PicoSDRs deployed in CorteXlab

Figure 1: Dr. Leonardo S. Cardoso from INRIA talking about Nutaq’s PicoSDRs deployed in CorteXlab

The goal for the lab is to build a community of researchers around the world working on future wireless systems, to explore new ideas, to openly share software and designs, and most importantly, to provide you with remote access to the lab. Just imagine having a small-scale platform (e.g. a single PicoSDR) on your desk, using rapid prototyping development tools to implement your algorithms and then remotely verify them on the CorteXlab large-scale network.

Based on discussions during CROWNCOM, the official opening date for CorteXlab is in September 2014. We’ll see how this goes, but the work seems to be on the right track. Future activities were also discussed and are under evaluation. Having fixed nodes in the lab is nice, but INSA researchers plan to introduce mobile nodes. The idea is to have robots with small SDR nodes driving around the room. The ZeptoSDR seems to be a natural choice as it is based on the Zynq processor (FPGA + ARM). Nutaq provides GNU Radio plugins for both the host PC and ARM, so you can port your algorithms to ARM and be independent from an external PC.

This new setup will open doors to further research and bring us closer to a real environment. You can imagine number of test scenarios and the many applications for verifying your algorithms!

You know what is also nice about CorteXlab? It’s going to be FREE for researchers! Visit the CorteXlab website for more information [8]. Also, if you are interested in learning more about the powerful SDR nodes used in Lyon, see our PicoSDR page [9].

References

1. CROWNCOM website: http://crowncom.org/2014/show/home.

2. CROWNCOM final program: http://crowncom.org/2014/show/program-final

3. http://duploworkshop.crowncom.org/2014/show/home

4. http://trialworkshop.crowncom.org/2014/show/home

5. http://newcom.crowncom.org/2014/show/home:

6. Radio nodes at CorteXlab: http://www.cortexlab.fr/?page_id=387

7. FPGA-based Implementation of Multiple PHY Layers of IEEE 802.15.4 Targeting SDR Platform: http://nutaq.com/sites/default/files/papers/sdr/INSA-FPGA-based-implementation-multiple-PHY-layers.pdf

8.  CorteXlab website: http://www.cortexlab.fr/

9. PicoSDR: http://www.nutaq.com/products/picosdr