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The Many Flavors of Low-power Wide Area Network (LPWAN or LPWA)

The Many Flavors of Low-power Wide Area Network (LPWAN or LPWA)

The impending shut down of 2G networks creates confusion for organizations with varied industrial connectivity needs and the movement has created a window of opportunity for unlicensed low-powered wide area networking (LPWA) solutions like LoRaWAN, SigFox and others. “The Many Flavors of LPWA” takes a closer look at these new LPWA options, addressing their varied features and benefits to help organizations in deciding which one best meets their unique and varied requirements.

By Derek Wallace, MultiTech

The options for industrial connectivity are broad and growing, including analog, Ethernet, cellular, satellite, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the up-and-coming Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies, which seek to address key limitations of the others in order to better enable the growing Internet of Things, specifically: range, cost and battery life. While cellular operators are voluntarily shutting down the earliest 2G networks and driving M2M/IoT customers to not only upgrade their physical devices, but also purchase bandwidth beyond what is generally needed for M2M and Industrial IoT applications – 75% of which use less than one megabyte per month of data, according to James Brehm & Associates. The global carrier community is looking to variants of LTE and even forward years to 5G to address this disconnect. Unfortunately, from a practical perspective, these alternatives (LTE Category M and Narrow Band IoT [5G]) are still on the horizon in terms of immediate adoptability. This timing disconnect has created a window of opportunity for unlicensed LPWA networking solutions like LoRaWAN, SigFox and others. These solutions can run for years on batteries and operate in locations other technologies simply don’t reach. Plus, because they operate on unlicensed spectrum, they deliver device connectivity at a fraction [...]

By |October 15th, 2017|Articles, RTC Magazine, System Development, Technology Connected, Technology focus, Technology In Context|Comments Off on The Many Flavors of Low-power Wide Area Network (LPWAN or LPWA)|

Readiness is Focus of Amended DoD Appropriations Request


Readiness is Focus of Amended DoD Appropriations Request

Additional appropriations requested for the FY 2017 Defense Budget are dominated by technology upgrades, added aircraft procurements and modernization investments.


At the time of this month’s COTS Journal going to press, the new Administration still has not yet put out their DoD budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2018. On “normal” years comes out in early February. Of more immediate interest perhaps is the DoD’s request to amended the fiscal year 2017 budget. Released in mid-March, the 2017 budget amendment is the current administration’s opportunity to add its own priorities to previous administration’s FY 2017 budget submission. The $30 billion 2017 budget amendment includes appropriations aimed at accelerating the defeat of the ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliated or associated groups, increasing warfighting readiness, and covering new must-pay bills (Figure 1).

According the DoD, this request for additional appropriations is only the first step toward rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces. The Department absorbed almost $200 billion in funding reductions from FY 2013 through FY 2017 due to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 and its sequestration impacts. The effect of these reductions was exacerbated by continuing resolutions and unpredictable budgets. Warfighting readiness has been hardest hit, as training, maintenance, and modernization have all suffered significantly.

Sequestration Takes its Toll

The goal going forward is to restore warfighting readiness and restore capacity and lethality of the joint force. This will require time and stable funding above the current BCA caps for defense for FY 2017 and beyond, according to the DoD. It remains to be seen how sequestration and the Budget [...]

By |May 26th, 2017|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on Readiness is Focus of Amended DoD Appropriations Request|

FPGA Advances Offer Both Capabilities and Challenges


FPGA Advances Offer Both Capabilities and Challenges

As FPGAs migrate to roles as “System Chips” they contain ever more valuable defense sensitive data and engineering. Keeping those resources safe and secure raises challenging issues.


Countless articles in COTS Journal and other publications highlight the importance, applications, and the success of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) in defense programs. The FPGAs themselves have changed dramatically in ways that augment this success. Advances include the addition of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) blocks, memory resources, high speed data protocol support, extended temperature range support, hardened processors (SoCs), and security features.

The latest generation of 16nm and 14nm products are expanding these inroads even further. The leading FPGA developers have aggressively developed products on the newest silicon manufacturing technologies. That’s driven by the aggregation of applications they can accommodate on a single FPGA platform. These leading-edge technologies then compete economically with ASICS, ASSPs, and other technologies for the limited volumes of many defense applications. In contrast, new custom ASICs entail exponentially increasing NRE expenses on leading silicon technology nodes that are otherwise amortized across different markets and users with FPGA products.

Attractive FPGA Features

The radar and electronic warfare applications of FPGA DSP blocks have been extensively documented by users and providers of FPGA technology. New features for military applications in recent product offerings include the hardening of single precision floating point operations and design/synthesis tool support for hardened floating point. That allows for higher resolution beam forming and image deconstruction and the ability to exploit the higher resolution analog-to-digital converters available in the [...]

By |April 18th, 2017|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on FPGA Advances Offer Both Capabilities and Challenges|

Annual Obsolescence and Life-Cycle Management Services Directory


Annual Obsolescence and Life-Cycle Management Services Directory

DMSMS Experts Help Navigate Consumer Electronics Dominance

Military system developers are forever racing to keep pace with the consumer-driven IC market. Thankfully a mix of distributors, engineering firms and government groups can help ease the pain.


Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) is a problem that the defense industry will likely never escape. That’s because the long development cycles in the defense world are way out of synch with the consumer semiconductor market. And with the volumes so much less in the military, the semiconductor vendors naturally orient everything they do toward big markets like smart phones, computers and a myriad other consumer electronic products.

Listed on the following three pages of COTS Journal’s 18th Annual Obsolescence Services Directory are a robust group of companies and organizations that are in the business of dealing with such problems. Among them aftermarket chip suppliers who stock inventories of devices that have gone obsolete. Some are large distributors who include aftermarket products in their portfolio, while others are small firms specializing in aftermarket business.

Also in the directory are packaging firms who do custom assembly of obsolete integrated circuits using existing wafer and die. And going a step further there are engineering labs with expertise in remaking the obsolete die and fabricating it on a more current process geometry. Meanwhile there are government groups like the Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA) and the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP) that provide comprehensive support beyond what business entities can provide.

The DMEA’s obsolescence management services involve continual active monitoring of a system’s parts to stay ahead of the obsolescence curve and [...]

By |March 22nd, 2017|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on Annual Obsolescence and Life-Cycle Management Services Directory|

Modeling Technology Critical for Radar System Designs


This Web exclusive version of the article features more content and graphics than the version that appeared in the print magazine ver

Modeling Technology Critical for Radar System Designs

With lowering Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) an increasing priority, vendors of small box products are answering the call for high performance computing in tightly integrated systems.


Radar system design is a complex, multi-domain challenge. As phased array antennas are used in new designs, an extended set of capabilities including electronic beam steering and spatial signal processing techniques are possible. These added capabilities come with a corresponding increase in system level complexity. In addition, growing levels of interference sources due to a crowded RF spectrum, as well as smaller cross-section targets contribute to the increased challenge of achieving desired radar performance levels.

A system simulation framework can be a critical part of today’s system design workflow to help reduce the risks brought on by the increases in system level and environmental complexity. Modeling multi-domain radar systems can help drive design decisions and detect design issues early on in the project. For example, evaluating a radar’s ability to detect low cross section targets or adding the right level of signal processing to remove unwanted noise sources. These same types of models can be used to help justify upgrades to mature, fielded systems before any hardware is procured or developed. In addition, aspects of life cycle planning for radar systems can be assessed by understanding how systems perform as failures occur.

From Waveform to Detections

It’s useful to review some ways a model can be used to assess a [...]

By |February 28th, 2017|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on Modeling Technology Critical for Radar System Designs|

ARINC 818 Continues Success as Avionics Display Protocol


ARINC 818 Continues Success as Avionics Display Protocol

A decade since its launch, the robust ARINC 818 standard enjoys a rich ecosystems of tools and technologies have emerged and matured helping to feed the needs of aircraft system developers worldwide.



ARINC 818, titled Avionics Digital Video Bus (ADVB), was released as a standard ten years ago and was introduced to the world through the article “ARINC 818 Becomes New Protocol Standard for High-Performance Video Systems” published in the December 2006 issue of COTS Journal. Since then, the protocol has proliferated as the mission critical video bus in most of the new, large commercial and military aircraft programs, including the B787, KC-46A, 737MAX, A350XWB, COMAC C-919, and a dozen others around the world. In addition to being the bus connecting mission and video processors to a variety of displays (HDD, HUDs, HMDs), it has expanded into high-resolution radars and IR and optical sensors. ARINC 818-2 was released in 2013, which added features specifically to accommodate these new classes of high-speed, high-resolution sensors. In short, it has not just kept pace with rapidly developing demands and technologies, but kept ahead of them.

ARINC 818 Features
Here we examine he main technical features of the ARINC 818 protocol that have led to ever expanding adoption by the mil/aero community and discuss the broad array of development tools, test equipment, and embedded hardware now available. In 2005, Airbus and Boeing, in an effort to simplify systems design and reduce cost, initiated a new standardization effort through the Digital Video Subcommittee of ARINC, which went on to release ARINC 818. The desire was [...]

By |February 7th, 2017|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on ARINC 818 Continues Success as Avionics Display Protocol|

EXCLUSIVE: Expert Shares Insights on Digital Transformation in the IoT Age


Going step beyond IoT, digital transformation entails securely connecting devices and extracting data and insights critical for warfighter missions.

While the DoD and defense industry are playing close attention to the booming Internet of Things phenomenon, for the military the scoped has to focus beyond just devices (things). To serve the warfighter, a broader picture that encompasses both people and systems is necessary. With all that in mind, COTS Journal’s Jeff Child had the opportunity to chat with Nick Michaelides, U.S. Federal Lead at Cisco Systems (Figure 1) to explore the issues and challenges of digital transformation and how advanced networking technologies are playing a key role.

Figure 1 Cisco Systems’ Nick Michaelides warns that as IoT-connected devices become engrained in military practices, security must become a built-in part of the digital transformation process.

Jeff Child, COTS Journal: Would you help me understand what exactly is “digital transformation” in comparison to the Internet of Things and how is it helping modernize federal organizations?

Nick Michaelides: The Internet of Things traditionally refers to an interconnected network of sensors and “smart” objects, with the purpose of allowing a programmatic interface and easier interaction with humans. Digital transformation, however, refers to connecting people and things so we can make sense of data in a meaningful and secure way. This increased focus on technology enabling the outcomes, rather than the technology alone, is the foundation and primary driver for helping organizations embark [...]

By |November 23rd, 2016|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on EXCLUSIVE: Expert Shares Insights on Digital Transformation in the IoT Age|

EXCLUSIVE: Expert Weighs in on RF/Digital Integration Challenges


Although they speak different languages, digital designers and RF designers have to integrate their subsystems at some point. Advanced tools help smooth the way.

It’s clear that both RF and embedded computing are critical technologies for a host of military systems-but the two worlds have traditionally run in separate circles. Today the push is toward streamlining the integration of RF and digital subsystems. Designers of advanced sensor processing applications want more affordable, flexible solutions that ease the integration of RF and digital subsystems (Figure 1).


Figure 1 Mathworks’ Ken Karnofsky stresses the benefits of software that lets teams model and simulate digital and RF components in the same environment, at multiple levels of fidelity.

With all that in mind, COTS Journal’s Jeff Child had the opportunity to sit down Ken Karnofsky, Senior Strategist for Signal Processing at Mathworks to discuss the complex challenges inherent in tackling tricky integration problems that encompass RF, DSP and the embedded software that ties everything together.

Jeff Child, COTS Journal: From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges facing today’s wireless design teams?

Ken Karnofsky: Developing wireless systems today is a task that requires multiple design skills, including system architecture, DSP, RF, antenna, mixed signal, digital hardware, and embedded software. Most teams don’t have expertise in all those areas. Even when they do, each specialist typically uses their favored tool. This makes system integration increasingly difficult, and pushes discovery of critical problems to the end of the development process when they’re most expensive to fix.

This challenge has different impacts at different stages [...]

By |October 28th, 2016|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on EXCLUSIVE: Expert Weighs in on RF/Digital Integration Challenges|

Cable Technology Advances Meet Shipboard Network Needs


Cable Technology Advances Meet Shipboard Network Needs

The open architectures of today’s shipboard naval systems offer huge benefits. But cable technologies need to keep pace with new performance and bandwidth demands.



It’s perhaps stating the obvious, but today’s naval vessels are electronic creatures: heavily networked and relying on these networks for every aspect of the ship’s operation. As with any network, there is a never-ending thirst for higher data rates and more connectivity to allow more sophisticated capabilities. Connectivity ranges from individual subsystems to fleet operations.

The U.S. military favors using off-the-shelf technology as a lower risk path than developing things from the ground up. Such technologies enjoy widespread use so that benefits and drawbacks are well understood. They likewise reap the rewards of high-volume production that translates into lower costs as well as a wide supplier base to foster competition and prevent vendor lock. Even so, off-the-shelf technology often needs to be ruggedized to meet the more demanding environments of military applications.

The traditional closed-architecture that long characterized naval systems suffered from not being able to provide a suitable upgrade path to keep up with progress in state-of-the-art computers. One example of the moves to COTS-based systems is the CANES (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services) program to create a single integrated software-based computing platform to replace five separate legacy systems. CANES unifies command, control, communication, computer, and intelligence systems, but not combat systems or machinery control (Figure 1). The result is a flexible, robust system that can evolve in capabilities in much the same way as commercial systems.
By |October 17th, 2016|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on Cable Technology Advances Meet Shipboard Network Needs|

Security/Safety Analysis Tools Smooth Path to MISRA-C Compliance


Security/Safety Analysis Tools Smooth Path to MISRA-C Compliance

MISRA C compliance standard and its new security amendment helps provide the assurance of protection from attack. Multiple analysis approaches are needed for complex systems.



Today’s military embedded systems are increasingly rich in functionality while existing on small, low-power multicore processors that are almost universally connected to the Internet of Things. These applications are vital for the operation of military systems both on the ground and in aerospace operations, making them critical for the safety of their operators and the general public as well as for the success of the mission. For these reasons, the requirements for safety, reliability and security are interdependent. These requirements must be followed and adhered to, and often they must also be proven and certified. In the case of military systems, this means adherence to and certifiablity of compliance with DO-178C, which the FAA describes as an, “acceptable means, but not the only means, for showing compliance with the applicable airworthiness regulations for the software aspects of airborne systems and equipment certification.” (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Avionics systems of military and commercial aircraft alike must meet stringent safety and security requirements. The MISRA C language helps ease work toward making such systems certifiable.

While DO-178C does not specify software security and is not itself a coding standard, it does require [...]

By |August 23rd, 2016|Articles, COTS Journal, System Development|Comments Off on Security/Safety Analysis Tools Smooth Path to MISRA-C Compliance|