Electronics

DARPA's latest grand challenge takes on the radio spectrum

DARPA's latest grand challenge...
United States Frequency Allocations - DARPA's next Grand Challenge aims to address the problem of an increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum
United States Frequency Allocations - DARPA's next Grand Challenge aims to address the problem of an increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum
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United States Frequency Allocations - DARPA's next Grand Challenge aims to address the problem of an increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum
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United States Frequency Allocations - DARPA's next Grand Challenge aims to address the problem of an increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum

One of the most hotly contested bits of real estate today is one you can't see. As we move into an increasingly wireless-connected world, staking out a piece of the crowded electromagnetic spectrum becomes more important. DARPA is hoping to help solve this issue with its latest Grand Challenge, which calls for the use of machine-learning technologies to enable devices to share bandwidth.

The Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) is aimed at alleviating an ongoing technological headache. Ever since the invention of radio, it's been recognized that there is only so much of the electromagnetic spectrum to go around, so government regulations were imposed to allocate bandwidth.

Early broadcast technology was fairly crude and radio and television services, for example, were given whole regions of the spectrum that today seem like allocating the entire Missouri river basin to run a toothpick factory. In recent decades, the rise of digital technology has pushed a reshuffle of these allocations that has also sparked a lot of bickering in military and civilian circles over who gets what and how much.

The SC2 is based on the idea that wireless devices would work better if they cooperated with one another rather than fought for bandwidth. Since not all devices are active at all times, the agency says, it should be possible through the use of artificial intelligence machine-learning algorithms to allow them to figure out how to share the spectrum with a minimum of conflict.

DARPA announced the competition in front of 8000 engineers on Wednesday at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) in Las Vegas. SC2 will run from 2017 through 2020 with teams competing to create radios that can collaborate most effectively with other radios. The competition will end with a live event and the prize is US$2 million.

To host the event and act as a venue for further research, DARPA is building the largest-of-its-kind wireless testbed called the "Colosseum" after the famous arena in Rome. This will allow researchers to carry out large scale tests in a controlled environment that can be configured to simulate real-world problems.

"DARPA Challenges have traditionally rewarded teams that dominate their competitors, but when it comes to making the most of the electromagnetic spectrum, the team that shares most intelligently is going to win," says SC2 program manager Paul Tilghman of DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office (MTO). "We want to radically accelerate the development of machine-learning technologies and strategies that will allow on-the-fly sharing of spectrum at machine timescales."

DARPA will release a Broad Agency Announcement for SC2 in the near future. In addition, there is a website for the latest information on the challenge.

Source: DARPA

3 comments
MGalaxyArt
Sometimes, soon after the iPhone became the most sought after smartphone and when it was 2G/3G and all that, it had this capacity to latch on to GPRS signal even when nothing else was available. This was depicted by the presence of an 'O' near about where the signals strength was shown on the the display at that time. It seems that later on, most newer smartphones lost this ability and as of now this has totally been discarded. When such signals and the capacity to make use of them exists, then we should perhaps exploit them before trying to hit our heads against the walls trying to invent / discover newer technologies. Normal radio transmission like AM/ FM/PM etc has been in existence for ages , it is simply difficult to understand why don't we exploit them more, to make better and different use of them, other then simply listening to music and all that.
Rusty Harris
Why do you think the FCC & congress was pushing the transition to "digital" television in the USA? $$$$$$ that's why. Go look at the frequency allocation in the 600mhz band. That is a HUGE chunk of spectrum that they are "auctioning" off to the wireless industry. 700mhz is a good penetration band and 600mhz will be even better. The old saying goes in radio, the lower the frequency, the farther the signal, which is most cases is true. But, on the flip side, those out in the middle of no where, that use to get a tv signal when it was analog, maybe with an outside antenna, will NOT receive the digital signal. But, the government wanted to sell that spectrum to make some money, who cares if residents don't get to watch their TV shows now.
Ken Brody
One of the most neglected technologies is the intelligent antenna, a phased array that transmits a narrow beam and tracks the receiving antenna as the cell phone user moves around. There is no mechanical motion, therefore a phased array can handle many stations if they are distributed in a circle around it. At current beam widths of 20 degrees a single intelligent antenna can handle 18 simultaneous calls all on the same frequency. They can be mounted on existing towers and multiply capacity by a factor of ten.