Army researchers, small business partner to enhance communication


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Credit: US Army

ADELPHI, Md. – Army and industry researchers are working to deliver new technology so that soldiers can protect themselves and their assets on the battlefield using improved communication methods.

Through the U.S. Army’s xTech program, researchers from the U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, the Army Research Laboratory, and Syncopated Engineering, have discovered each other and a common research base that will protect future soldiers.

xTech is an open thematic competition sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology or ASA (ALT), as part of the xTech program aimed at small businesses to discover new dual-use scientific and technological solutions to deal with the most the critical challenges of army modernization.

The trading company creates software applications and embedded systems for wireless communications, signal processing and machine learning. As a finalist in the third iteration of the xTech competition, she has since created a Research and Development Cooperation Agreement (CRADA) and a joint working statement with DEVCOM ARL to develop improved radio systems for soldiers.

“Our large radio frequency or radio frequency footprint makes it an easy goal, putting our troops at significant risk,” said Jim Costabil, founder of Syncopated Engineering and CEO. “The problem is growing and communication is less obviously not the solution.”

The company’s Mockingbird RF system emulates multiple radio personalities and manipulates the spectrum to deceive and confuse the adversary with parts of the value of high-value assets, such as people and equipment it is designed to protect.

According to Costabile, Mockingbird generates signals with random traffic patterns and does not record or reproduce, making their signals longer and more realistic. They also have the ability to learn RF signals directly from actual RF transmitters, including the rhythm of the communication battle.

“This allows us to emulate specific systems, troops or command posts based on their actual operational pace and mission scenario, such as RF scenes before the mission, the mission and after the mission,” he said.

The Mockingbird emulator of Army RF systems could be useful for current ARL programs that develop tools and solutions for congested and contested electromagnetic environments, said Army researcher Kelly Sherbondi.

“It would be most useful to use an RFID tool of interest as a standard source for our cognitive research,” he said.

Sherbondi and Costabil discussed at length the partnership in the laboratory podcast on June 30, 2021. What we learned today.

Costabile first learned about the army’s business opportunities through one of the Open Campus’ open houses in the lab.

“We focused on radio applications,” Costabile said. “We continued the technical discussion and started working together. First on the SDRadar program, and now on the spectrum access sensor for a situation analysis or the SASSY project. We also created CRADA with its organization.”

Costabile said he and his company were extremely happy to work with ARL.

“We continue to work with Kelly and Dr. Tony Martone on the SASSY program, where we are responsible for developing research platforms and systems that help showcase state-of-the-art research from their organization and their university partners,” Costabile said. “Kelly and Tony are constantly expanding the boundaries of research, and we are fortunate to be able to continue to help them transfer their research to recording programs through rapid prototyping.”

For Costabile and his company, the xTech race provided an opportunity unlike ever.

“Dual-use technology was a strong focus during the xTech process, and the step-by-step process really helped us understand that we could bring our Mockingbird system to market for commercial tests and measurements,” Costabile said. “This year we will launch the Mockingbird laboratory system, which will provide a robust small-spectrum spectrum analyzer and a random RF signal generator. This system can be used to create rich RF scenes through a simple and intuitive web interface that can used to test and verify spectral sensors and signal detection and identification algorithms. “

In addition, Costabile said, this robust system can be transferred from the lab to the real-time spectrum monitoring field or on-air testing. The company is currently using this system to generate complex RF interference scenarios needed to evaluate the performance of ARL’s SRL spectral detection algorithms.

Costabile said he and the company also expect to continue their rapid engineering prototyping services with the military.

“It turns out that the speed and efficiency of development we need to build our solutions are equally valuable to ARL, allowing a rapid demonstration of state-of-the-art ARL research in a robust system that can be more easily transferred to larger army programs, “Costabile said.

Costabile said his experience with the xTech race was positive.

“The xTech team has been amazing and challenging, and the new relationships in both the military and their larger ecosystem have created new opportunities for us to focus, refine and deliver our solutions to the military’s expressed needs,” Costabile said. “We enjoyed the relationship we established with the other participants. We continue to work with several other participants to integrate battery technology and create innovative foam packaging for cost-effective software radio solutions.”

For military researchers, the xTech program brings new life to their projects and overall mission.

“Developing opportunities for small innovative companies to collaborate directly and work with government researchers such as ARL benefits everyone,” Sherbondi said. “ARL gets enthusiastic researchers willing to work on our smaller budget R&D programs. Syncopated gets an idea of ​​the requirements and uniqueness of the military problem they can undertake for future R&D programs.”


The next xTech competition should start in the fall of 2021 and will be open to all US-based small businesses. Companies interested in more information about the xTech program or participating in it can visit https: // /xtechsearch /.