DARPA Spectrum Challenge

Announced mid last week, DARPA will be sponsoring a Spectrum Challenge. This is a huge opportunity for the radio field. For years, we have been researching issues of spectrum sharing (or Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA)). While we've generated a lot of good ideas, we haven't yet seen these ideas take shape in real, provable systems. Too often, the work is a simulation or an experimental test bed with too many controlled parameters.

DARPA, through their Spectrum Challenge, has a chance to change this. Forcing teams to develop and compete against each other as well as other interfering radios means that we have to think about real, unexpected challenges to our ideas. We will have to develop both robust algorithms and robust systems. What will result will almost certainly be a large number of advances in the science, technology, and understanding of the coexistence of radios.

From my perspective as the maintainer of GNU Radio, this is a great opportunity for us, too. While DARPA is not mandating the use of GNU Radio, they are requiring that teams demonstrate competency in our software. And since the final challenge will be done using USRPs, I hope that many teams will continue to use GNU Radio as their platform of choice. As I said, the challenge will not only involve developing robust spectrum sharing algorithms, it will also demand robust platforms. GNU Radio is well-known, well-tested, and has an active, educated community of users, and so is a perfect platform to build upon.

As the head of GNU Radio, I will not be participating directly in the competition. I hope to be able to advise and help all teams as I am able, and I do not want to be biased by any stake I have. Personally, my stake in this competition is the advancement of the science and technology of DSA as well as the opportunity it provides for GNU Radio.

For more details of the chellenge, visit DARPA's website.

Their Q&A page is a good, quick read over the main aspects of the challenge to get up to speed.