Reconfigurable Multi-node Wireless Communication Testbed 

Investigators: Tan F. Wong, John M. Shea, and Yuguang Fang 

 
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (Grant EIA0224410)

 
Project Description:
The objective of this project is to develop a wireless communication testbed of six reconfigurable transceiver nodes that operate in the 900MHz or 2.4 GHz ISM band. This testbed enables conducting real-time experiments on network protocols and communications techniques over real-life wireless communication channels. 
 
The testbed provides a low-cost, flexible, and reconfigurable means to experimentally evaluate many communication techniques and higher layer protocols. Each transceiver node is made up of a radio-frequency (RF) front-end, a software- processing (SP) baseband unit containing a data acquisition (DAQ) unit and a notebook computer, and a hardware-processing (HP) unit consisting of a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) development board with on-board A/D and D/A converters. The SP unit provides a maximum degree of reconfigurability based on software implementation in the PC, while the HP unit allows for real-time experimentation. This two-tier testbed approach provides us an easier way to attack the design of the algorithms. For instance, we can first test and fine-tune a prototype design of an algorithm using the off-line software baseband processor. After the algorithmic design is completed, we can convert the software, say C routines, to VHDL and make necessary modifications to allow for real-time implementation based on the FPGA board. Information about the design and implementation of the testbed is made available from the project homepage in order to share our experience in developing the testbed with other wireless communications researchers and practitioners in the country.
 
Impact:
 

The testbed has had a significant impact on undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Florida. It provides a platform for undergraduate students to participate in integrated design training and gain research experience. Two senior-level undergraduate students and two graduate students are currently working on research projects that utilize the testbed for experimentation. The students first conduct simulation studies on algorithms that are developed in the research projects. Then they employ the testbed to perform off-line experiments over a real communication channel to identify possible weaknesses of the algorithms that are developed based on theoretical models. Finally, they fine-tune the algorithms to produce a real-time FPGA implementation. In this process, undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to participate in advanced theoretical research as well as to go through many parts of the design process of baseband processing for wireless communication systems. 
 
Equipment:
  • Altera APEX 20K 1500E FPGA/DSP Development Boards 
  • National Instruments DAQ Pad-6070E
  • Micro Devices RD0300 OOK RF Transceiver Frontends
  • Dell Inspiron 8200 Laptops
  • Tektronic TDS5104 Digital Phosphor Oscilloscope
  • Tektronic AWG2021 Arbitrary Waveform Generator
  • Agilent E3640A Power Supply
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