RF board takes Arduino-like approach


RF board takes Arduino-like approach

Peter Clarke

3/7/2013 4:55 AM EST

"We’re trying to create an Arduino for the RF sector; a board that’s low cost, powerful, and easy to use," said Lime CEO Ebrahim Bushehri. "Most importantly, we’re trying to let the community determine what’s required."

LONDON – Lime Microsystems Ltd., a developer of configurable multi-band radio transceiver ICs, has launched an open-source RF hardware project that it says is intended to further innovation in wireless systems.

The non-profit initiative has been launched under the name Myriad-RF with its own website and includes pre-made RF boards with editable design files that developers can freely download and use in their own designs.

Lime Microsystems is not the only company trying to stimulate an open-source and community-support approach to RF but it is a well-connected commerical enterprise that plans to lead the initiative while other companies and individual engineers come on-board.

"We’re trying to create an Arduino for the RF sector; a board that’s low cost, powerful, exceptionally flexible and easy to use.

And, most importantly, we’re trying to let the community determine what’s required, letting them add the functionality they need," said Ebrahim Bushehri, CEO of Lime (Guildford, England) and creator of Myriad-RF, in a statement.

"Innovation only really happens when a large number of minds tackle a problem, and by going open-source we can slash the hardware costs and open RF innovation up to as many people as possible."

Bushehri said he hoped that engineers would congregate on the site and be able to support each other as they roll out innovative uses of field-programmble radio systems.

Right now Myriad-RF is effectively based around Lime’s LMS6002D digital-to-RF transceiver.

This chip, used in small cell basestations and suitable to support all cellular wireless standards, includes integrated ADCs DACs and low-noise amplifiers and covers the spectrum from 300-MHz to 3.8-GHz.

Bushehri said Myriad-RF would be open to other suppliers of RF transceivers if they could meet the objectives of furthering software-defined radio and field-programmable RF (FPRF) over a similar frequency range.

Myriad-RF boards use FPRF transceivers to support all the mobile broadband standards – LTE, HSPA+, CDMA, 2G – including all regional variants; and any wireless communications frequency between 0.3 and 3.8GHz. This includes the regulated, licensed bands and unlicensed/whitespace spectra.

Myriad-RF aims to provide hobbyists and experienced design engineers with a variety of low-cost RF boards and free design files available for general use. The first board, Myriad-RF 1, has been designed by Lime’s Taiwanese distributor Azio Electronics.

Myriad-RF-1 board developed by Azio Electronics

First board and database

The Myriad-RF-1 board measures 5-cm by 5-cm and requires a 5-V power supply and is software configurable to operate from 300-MHz to 3.8-GHz on 2G, 3G and 4G communication networks.

Pre-built boards will initially retail for $299 or less.

"The schematic layout and bill of materials are all available as an open database," said Bushehri.

The transceivers come with well-defined digital connections on one side, to go to FPGA or DSP basebands, and RF connectors to power amplifier front-end on the other, said Bushehri.
Bushehri said he hoped that complementary component makers such as vendors of power amplifiers, antennas, FPGAs and DSPs would also get involved with the initiative.

Why Separate Initiative?

When asked why it had not been chosen to address RF innovation by contributing to one of the established open-source digital hardware initiatives such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or Mbed, Bushehri said that one problem is that there are so many of these initiatives it would result in redundant work in each forum.

By forming a stand-alone open-source initiative focused on configrable RF it was hoped that work could be done once and links made to multiple digital hardware initiatives through well-defined interfaces. Bushehri said.

Lime is not the first to try and stimulate the creation of an open-source RF community.

Open-Source RF (Irvine, Calif.) is a venture founded by Armen Kazanchian in mid 2012 under the Kickstarter program.

It is looking to serve Arduino users with a plug-and-play wireless board for Arduino.

The board, known as a shield, operates on a 2.4-GHz carrier frequency and includes an antenna.

Apex Logic is an organization that creates open-source prototypes addressing a variety of applications and has developed low-cost RF transceiver designs and code for Arduino based on transceiver ICs that operate at 433-MHz.

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