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Reducing SDR Complexity

Wyatt Taylor

01/11/23

Software defined radio (SDR) development is an inherently complex engineering challenge. Taking what used to be a single function piece of radio hardware and turning it into an upgradable, multi-function piece of hardware demands flexibility across the entire radio system. But, as the name implies, software defined radios are almost always dominated by software constraints. Epiq Solutions has more than a decade of experience developing SDR platforms with a unique approach to reducing SDR complexity for our customers and partners.

For all Epiq Solutions SDR platforms, there is a single application programming interface (API), named libsidekiq. The libsidekiq API provides multiple benefits to Epiq's SDR customers, such as:

1. Reduced Hardware Level Complexity

Modern SDR platforms are foundationally built on complex RF transceiver and FPGA components from large semiconductor companies, like Analog Devices and Xilinx. As these components grow in capability, the impact to system developers is a commensurately complex configuration experience. A modern SDR platform could have hundreds of control lines and thousands of registers and function calls — all of which must be programmed correctly for the SDR to realize complete functionality and performance. Rather than parsing a dozen manuals from different vendors, Epiq invests in libsidekiq so users have a centrally documented API to develop against. The API is consistent across all platforms and abstracts SDR functionality down to intuitive commands, such as center frequency, bandwidth, gain, or calibration state.

2. Eased Migration Across Platforms

Innovation in the SDR space moves rapidly, with new semiconductors and, thus, new SDR platforms being produced on a nearly annual basis. Another key benefit to the libsidekiq architecture is it provides a consistent interface across time and products regardless of the actual RF and digital hardware underneath the hood. This has been proven time and time again with our customers, where an application running on a legacy platform can be easily migrated to Epiq's latest SDR platform. The benefit here is that as Epiq introduces new features, like fast hopping or phase coherency, there is very little R&D required on the customer side — it has been absorbed into the libsidekiq development process. Faster migration leads to accelerated deployment schedules and greater end user satisfaction.

3. Rapid Prototyping with Open Source Platforms

Epiq Solutions has provided Open Source drivers for GNURadio and SoapySDR to allow users to rapidly convert existing applications from other SDR platforms to Epiq Solutions SDR platforms. 

Since GNURadio has a graphical user interface via gnuradio-companion, it also allows users to get an application up and running with very little effort.  Below is an FM Radio example provided in the Epiq Solutions gr-sidekiq driver. Enabling rapid out-of-box demonstration with a real radio waveform and leveraging open source tools is another way libsidekiq helps reduce SDR development hurdles.

In summary, migrating from single function radio hardware to software defined radio hardware always introduces design challenges across the RF, digital, mechanical, and software domains. At Epiq, we believe that accelerating software development cycles is the most valuable way we can enable our customers to quickly expand their radio capability and deploy new technologies to relevant operational environments. To learn more, visit https://epiqsolutions.com/.

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