DARPA competition seeks wireless bandwidth intimidators

DARPA’s $150,000 Spectrum Challenge aims to find developers who can create new, more powerful software-defined radio protocols

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What if your wireless communications just absolutely, positively have to be heard above the din of other users or in the face of massive interference?

That is the question at the heart of a new $150,000 challenge that will be thrown down in January by the scientists at DARPA as the agency detailed its Spectrum Challenge - a competition that aims to find developers who can create software-defined radio protocols that best use communication channels in the presence of other users and interfering signals. 

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High priority radios in the military and civilian sectors must be able to operate regardless of the ambient electromagnetic environment, to avoid disruption of communications and potential loss of life. Rapid response operations, such as disaster relief, further motivate the desire for multiple radio networks to effectively share the spectrum without requiring direct coordination or spectrum preplanning. Consequently, the need to provide robust communications in the presence of interfering signals is of great importance, DARPA stated.  

DARPA says the Challenge is not focused on developing new radio hardware, but instead is targeted at finding strategies for guaranteeing successful communication in the presence of other radios that may have conflicting co-existence objectives. The Spectrum Challenge will entail head-to-head competitions between your radio protocol and an opponent's in a structured testbed environment. In addition to bragging rights for the winning teams, one team could win as much as $150,000, the agency stated.

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"The Spectrum Challenge is focused on developing new techniques for assured communications in dynamic environments - a necessity for military and first responder missions. We have created a head-to-head competition to see who can transmit a set of data from one radio to another the most effectively and efficiently while being bombarded by interference and competing signals," said Dr. Yiftach Eisenberg, DARPA program manager in a statement. "To win this competition teams will need to develop new algorithms for software-defined radios at universities, small businesses and even on their home computers."

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