The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of California-San Diego is distributing for alpha testing a hardware-and-software platform for wireless research and development. The CalRadio 1.0 is an open-source device which offers academic and corporate researchers freedom to develop new RF solutions. The purpose is to accelerate the development of new wireless protocols and networking standards. CalRadio took two years to develop, and the process was helped along by several companies: Symbol Technologies contributed the RF module and early MAC code, and TI donated the development system.
The first version of CalRadio is powered by a high-performance TI TMS320VC5471 ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) + DSP. Software developers would appreciate the fact that the ARM processor runs ucLinux, and the DSP implements the MAC for the 802.11b WiFi standard in C code. "Since all aspects are coded in C, they can be altered quite easily," said Douglas Palmer, principal development engineer at Calit2. "Until now, if you wanted to do anything in the WiFi area, you were stuck with what manufacturers offered: usually dozens of functions implemented on a single piece of silicon. There was no flexibility to alter algorithms. With CalRadio, they can be altered easily to fit a particular type of research, including queuing, ad hoc networking, security, and power management."
The model the Callit2 researchers want to emulate is that of the JPEG code: It was written, posted, and deployed almost instantly and universally (compare that to a typical IEEE standard writing process). "We are trying to duplicate that same success story for wireless communications standards," said Ramesh Rao, Calit2's division director at UCSD and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the school. "The next Bluetooth or ZigBee could be developed on this kind of platform, with the specifications being published as a real working device. That eases the speed of deploying new standards."
Now, if this does not make you nostalgic for earlier days (although, as Yogi Berra reminded us, "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be"): In a garage-shop operation, Calit2 researchers are building the first 50 boxes on campus for distribution at cost plus an administrative handling fee (about $2,000 per unit). Calit2 expects to outsource manufacturing and distribution of the devices but intends to remain a nexus for promoting CalRadio as an open-source platform for research.
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