Continuing to deliver on its commitment to provide the most comprehensive and flexible development tools in the industry, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) announced today at the SDR Forum Technical Conference the availability of its Small Form Factor Software Defined Radio (SDR) Development Platform, the industry’s first and only development platform targeted at the portable military communications market.
The platform, developed in collaboration with Xilinx Inc. and other third parties, provides the entire signal chain hardware from antenna to baseband as well as a software board support package that supports a complete suite of software development tools in a single integrated development platform. With the kit, developers can easily design waveforms as well as create and test single or multi-protocol radios for applications in military, public safety, commercial, Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) and land mobile radio (LMR) communication systems as well as RFID readers. Additionally, as the platform is integrated to work with Simulink model-based design tool, developers have the option to use C/HDL or MATLAB Simulink to quickly test proof-of-concept designs and then optimize the architecture for cost and power.
Complete Hardware and Software Flexibility to Create Multi-Protocol Radios
Next-generation radios require a software defined architecture that supports multiple protocols while providing standardized hardware that can implement a broad range of systems from simple baseband to complex wideband radios. For example, a radio for military applications, such as a soldier radio, may need to support multiple waveforms as it is supplied to different groups within the military. In public safety applications, multi-protocol radios need to be able to support various emergency bands including police and fire bands.
Unlike other SDR development offerings in the market, the SDR Development Platform is a hardware/software co-development environment that supplies the full signal chain for a multi-protocol software defined radio, including RF front-end module, A/D and D/A data conversion module and digital processing module. By separating out the baseband, IF, and RF as distinct modules rather than as a single fixed architecture, developers are able to extend their radio development capabilities, as well as optimize for cost and power consumption, by substituting their own or third party modules. This flexibility is vital, as it gives developers the ability to adjust their products around the industry’s constantly varying requirements.
The digital processing module capitalizes on the performance and architecture benefits of TI’s TMS320DM6446 system on chip (SoC) comprised of TI’s TMS320CC64x+(TM) digital signal processor (DSP) core and an ARM9(TM) general-purpose processor. The high-performance DSP core streamlines complex signal processing, while the GPP supports network and application processing. Because the DM6446 device is equipped with both a DSP and ARM on a single chip, developers benefit from reduced system space and cost. Additionally, TI’s DM6446 SoC comes complete with a full set of peripherals necessary for SDR, including serial ports, USB and Ethernet connections and DDR2 and NAND flash memory. The module also comes with a Xilinx Virtex(TM)-4 FPGA for modem co-processing and acceleration functions. The use of the Xilinx Virtex-4 SX35 gives developers enough performance headroom with low enough power to implement custom IP and acceleration functions that have varying requirements from one protocol to another supported on the same hardware.
The Data Conversion module includes two ADS5500 analog to digital converters, offering 14-bits performance at 125 Mega samples per second (MSPS) and one DAC5687, a 16-bit dual channel digital to analog data converter with 500 MSPS performance from TI. The standard RF module included in the kit covers from 360 MHz to 960 MHz with a selectable 5 MHz or 20 MHz bandwidth, supporting a wide range of applications. The platform also utilizes TI’s MSP430 ultra low power MCU and power management technology.
Rapid Proof-of-Concept and Optimized Application Development
As part of the development platform, TI has brought together several industry leaders to provide the necessary software components and tools to enable rapid SDR development. Lyrtech developed the hardware for the platform and integrated all of the software components of the kit. Relying upon its industry-leading expertise in developing DSP+FPGA architectures, Lyrtech will also provide custom support for TI’s SDR Development Platform. Green Hills’ Integrity real-time operating system running on the ARM provides the ideal environment for implementing higher layers of radio protocols. Objective Interface Systems (OIS) is supplying the Object Request Broker (ORB) middleware for the ARM9, the DSP, and FPGA for the SCA version of the platform. The ORB middleware substantially reduces development complexity and enables algorithm code portability. The Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) supplies the Software Communications Architecture (SCA) core framework, as per version 2.2, that enables flexible implementation of different waveforms and protocols. Full reference design specs, as well as a complete bill-of-materials (BOM), will be available to developers.
“SDR is an emerging technology that has been historically constrained by its inherent complex signal processing requirements. With the SDR Development Platform, developers can now harness the performance and efficiency of TI’s TMS320DM644x device to overcome those traditional barriers,” said Ram Sathappan, SDR Marketing Manager at TI. “Through this development kit, TI is making a strong commitment to the SDR market by providing a robust silicon, hardware and software roadmap that will drive down cost and power consumption.”
Unparalleled Power Management
Because of the inherent mobility requirements of wireless radios, power consumption is an important factor that is a key challenge in creating an efficient and cost-effective radio design. The SDR Development Platform is the only development tool in the SDR segment to include the Power Measurement API which enables developers to track real-world power consumption of the digital baseband unit precisely while algorithm functions are being executed. Traditional power measurement techniques require external measurement of power consumption that offers rough estimates at best, but this development kit will include five different API functions to measure power consumption for all the different elements of the kit. The Power Measurement API gives developers more visibility into their systems, enabling them to measure currents drawn from individual components such as the DSP and the FPGA. This enables developers to extract important information such as burst and peak power for a specific data rate, enabling them to accurately isolate components as well as accurately estimate battery life. Additionally, developers are able to achieve the optimal power balance while maximizing performance between the different SDR components, all with effectively zero impact on system performance.
TI’s Continued Commitment to SDR
TI is also a Gold Sponsor of the Smart Radio Challenge hosted by the SDR Forum, a non-profit organization devoted to supporting the development, deployment and adoption of software defined radio technologies. Universities around the world will compete to solve critical problems within the software-defined radio industry, including managing spectrum access for first responders and communications interoperability. TI, in conjunction with Lyrtech, will provide the SDR Development Platform to participants upon which to implement their entries, as well as cash prizes for the best implemented solutions.
Availability, Packaging, and Pricing
The Small Form Factor Software Defined Radio Development Platform (TMDSSFFSDRDP) without the SCA core framework or ORB costs $9,900 and is available through TI distributors. A reduced feature version of the SDR Development Platform for evaluation and development of digital baseband processing software (TMDSSFFSDREVM) is also available for $2,900. The full and reduced feature versions of the kit include free evaluation copies of TI, Xilinx and Green Hills software and tools. An Enhanced SCA version of the SDR Development Platform including licensed copies of the complete software suite including SCA framework and ORB middleware is offered directly by Lyrtech.