Analyzing RF Environments with Software Defined Radios (SDR)

This showcase provides instructions for using Epiq Solution’s Sidekiq Z2 Mini-PCIe software-defined radio (SDR) RF transceiver with a Gateworks SBC. Epiq Solutions specializes in building high performance, low size, weight and power (SWaP) SDRs for engineering teams and government-focused organizations requiring situational awareness and detailed insight into their RF environments.

What is a Software-Defined Radio (SDR)?

sdr radio for industrial single board computers
Epiq Solution’s Sidekiq Z2 SDR

A SDR is a radio which can modulate and demodulate radio signals through software commands provided by a host computer. They typically use a dedicated FPGA to quickly process the radio signals in the digital domain. Many SDRs support wide frequency bandwidths allowing them to monitor a wide range of radio transmissions and to be reconfigured on the fly. SDRs provide several benefits over traditional hardware-based radios as software enables over-the-air or other remote reprogramming, as well as allowing function and feature updates to occur while a radio is in service, thus reducing the time and costs associated with operation and maintenance.

Typical use cases are:

  • Security Applications by Providing RF Detection of Mobile Devices (Cellular phones, Wifi, BLE, etc..)
  • Adaptive Wireless Network Configuration and Optimization
  • Monitor Ship and Aircraft Transmissions
  • Radio Astronomy
  • Monitor Broadcast, Amateur and DRM Radio

Epiq Solutions’ Sidekiq Z2, which was used in this testing, can tune into and monitor any radio transmission frequency between 70Mhz and 6Ghz, a range which covers from FM radio to 5G cellular.

Here is a chart showing some of the common radio protocols in that frequency range.

BandFrequencyCommon Use
Very Low Frequency (VLF)3kHz to 30kHzMaritime radio, navigation
Low Frequency (LF)30kHz to 300kHzMaritime radio, navigation
Medium Frequency (MF)300kHz to 3MHzAM radio, Aviation radio, navigation
High Frequency (HF)3MHz to 30MhzAmateur radio, NFC, aviation, weather
Very High Frequency (VHF)30MHz to 300MHzFM radio, VHF television
Ultra High Frequency (UHF)300MHz to 3GHzMobile radio, Wifi, GPS, 4G, UHF television
Super High Frequency (SHF)3GHz to 30GHzSatellite, 5G, Wifi,

The Epiq Solution’s Sidekiq Z2 & Gateworks SBCs

sdr on gateworks industrial sbc
Epiq Solution’s Sidekiq Z2 SDR mounted on a ​Gateworks Newport GW6300 SBC

Gateworks has created a showcase that features Sidekiq Z2 working in conjunction with the industrial Gateworks Newport GW6300 SBC.

Sidekiq Z2 needs to be inserted into an open Mini-PCIe site that features USB signaling. Antennas that are tuned to the frequency being used will need to be connected. A serial console is opened from the Gateworks SBC command line into Sidekiq Z2’s interface. This will essentially create a network interface. Full instructions are on the Gateworks SDR Wiki Page.

ERA RF Analyzer Software

sdr rf analyzer software for industrial sbcs

ERA is Epiq Solution’s proprietary RF analyzer software. It allows viewing and recording of the RF spectrum activity in a specific target location anywhere.

ERA software gets installed on Sidekiq Z2, with instructions and files provided by Epiq Solutions.

Once installed, ERA software can be launched and used.

More information can be found on the Epiq ERA webpage.

Conclusion

Software Defined Radios (SDRs) are a very powerful tool allowing the analysis of many frequency ranges. Pairing Epiq Solution’s Sidekiq Z2 SDR with the Gateworks rugged and industrial single board computer creates a platform that can excel in any embedded RF application.


Resources

Full coverage of this showcase with detailed programming instructions can be found on the Gateworks SDR Wiki Page.

Epiq Solutions develops cutting edge tools for engineering teams and government-focused organizations requiring radically small SDRs to provide situational awareness and detailed insight into their RF environments in order to identify and act against wireless threats. To view the Epiq Solutions complete line of SDR-based RF transceiver solutions, view their website.

Gateworks Corporation designs and manufactures ARM based single board computers and cellular modem cards in the USA. Several industrial SBC families have varying sizes from 35x70mm up to 140x100mm with Mini-PCIe and M.2 slots specific for SDR usage. The SBCs feature multiple ethernet (including dual Gigabit) ports as well as multiple Mini-PCIe slots for WiFi and Cellular radios. Each single board computer is designed with an optimized and highly efficient power supply that accepts 10-60VDC. To further view the entire line of Gateworks SBCs, please visit the Gateworks Industrial Single Board Computer product page.

Ventana GW5510 Single Board Computer
The Ventana GW5510 Industrial single board computer is only 35x70mm and features a Mini-PCIe slot for cellular modems, HDMI Video Input and Output and multiple peripheral interfaces.
GW6400 SBC
The Newport GW6400 Industrial SBC features a Marvell OcteonTX ARM CPU, 5 Ethernet ports and 4 Mini-PCIe slots for up to four modems.