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C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

Cognitive Systems looks to military applications for 'radio on a chip'

16 December 2016
Cognitive Systems' mates the entire RF, analog, and digital front end of a radio with high-bandwidth high-performance general purpose heterogeneous multiprocessor-based computation all on one integrated circuit. Source: Cognitive Systems Corp

Cognitive Systems is looking to transition its commercial R10 integrated circuit (IC), referred to as "radio frequency [RF] situational awareness on a chip", to military customers seeking a high-performance, agile, and low-size, weight, and power (SWaP) solution.

RF situational awareness refers to the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the salient elements of the RF environment, Nebu John Mathai, the director of strategic initiatives and advanced engineering for Cognitive Systems, told IHS Jane's .

"What our cognitive radio on a chip offers is exactly that - on a chip - the ability to sense and obtain crucial insight into the RF environment around a sensor-actuator build with our IC," he said. "Our technology mates the entire RF, analog, and digital front end of a radio with high-bandwidth, high-performance general purpose heterogeneous multiprocessor-based computation - all on one integrated circuit."

"The fact that we put general purpose processing on the chip [a five-core heterogeneous multiprocessor system] makes it a truly software-defined radio [SDR]. All of our radio sensing and other stacks are implemented as software algorithms that execute on our on-chip multiprocessor complex," Mathai said; however, he noted that referring to the company's chip as an SDR is limiting.

"In practice the term SDR is applied to a large space of solutions that are not truly software-defined. What is termed an SDR by the market are the multi-chip [sometimes multi-printed circuit board, or PCB] solutions that consist of a separated RF/analog front end mated to an FPGA [field programmable gate array] on a PCB," he said.

"The highest performance usage case of such SDRs utilise the FPGA to realise the computation. However, there are two issues here: the FPGAs that are typically used are under-powered FPGAs; and even if this is resolved via the use of high-end FPGAs [at a large cost in terms of power consumption, size, and economics], this is still not software-defined - FPGA-based implementation is a hardware design task," Mathai added.

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