IEEE Spectrum Coverage of the DARPA Spectrum Challenge Hosted by WINLAB's ORBIT


IEEE Spectrum article covers the DARPA Spectrum Challenge hosted at WINLAB's ORBIT

On March 19-20, 2014, 15 teams from around the country demonstrated new ways to make radio communications more reliable and robust by participating in the final event of the DARPA Spectrum Challenge—a national competition to develop advanced radio techniques capable of communicating in congested and contested electromagnetic environments without direct coordination or spectrum preplanning.

Eighteen teams had previously participated in the Spectrum Challenge preliminary event in September 2013. Three teams that participated in the preliminaries were unable to complete their ambitious designs in time for the final event. The competitors at the final event represented the top 15 teams out of the 90 teams that initially registered. Academic institutions from around the country comprised 12 of the 15 teams, while the remaining three teams were individual radio hobbyists and practitioners working on their own time.

Both the preliminary and final events included two separate tournaments, each with its own goals:

Cooperative tournament: In each match, three teams attempted to effectively share the spectrum while transmitting random data files from their source radio to their destination radio over the same 5 MHz UHF band. Teams could not coordinate in advance on how to share the spectrum; instead, they had to develop and implement algorithms to enable their assigned software-defined radios to dynamically communicate at a high rate while leaving spectrum available for the other two teams to do the same.

Competitive tournament: In each match, two teams sought to dominate the spectrum, with the winner being the first to transmit all its files of random data (or to successfully transmit the most packets in three minutes) from a source radio to a destination radio. Teams had to develop and implement algorithms to enable their assigned software-defined radio to dynamically communicate at a high rate in the presence of competitors’ signals within the same 5 MHz UHF band.

DARPA provided all teams with the same radio hardware to ensure that each team would win or lose based on its software algorithms alone. All the matches again occurred on the   ORBIT Testbed at Rutgers University’s WINLAB, which streamed the proceedings live to big screens in DARPA’s conference center.  Prof. Wade Trappe and Ivan Seskar led the effort to successfully run the DARPA Spectrum Challenge at WINLAB's ORBIT Testbed.