Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2017


DARPA's Hackfest Review

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hosting a pre-FOSDEM hackfest on unintentional emitters of electromagnetic signals. The hackfest should attract many people from the software defined radio (SDR) community to participate as it will involve the design and development of techniques to discover, capture, identify, and disseminate the emissions and emitters. The hackfest will take place in Brussels from February 1 – 3, so this talk will provide a review of the work that went on in the days just preceding FOSDEM.

Electromagnetic (EM) emissions are everywhere and come from radio systems that purposefully emit EM signals, unintended emissions from these radios in other frequencies, and unintentional emissions from all of our electronics, even those not designed as radios. These emissions affect spectrum usage, which is a vital part of our daily lives and continues to grow in its importance. As more services and devices are depending on wireless connectivity, the problems of interference will grow, too. We typically think about interference coming from other wireless devices, but other electronics create EM emissions as well, such as computers and vehicles. But even more mundane electronics, like AC-to-DC converter “wall-warts” for charging cell phones, produce emissions. Though often low-power, the growing prevalence of electronics to support our daily lives is also an additive source of interference.

DARPA will be hosting a hackfest in Brussels over the three days leading up to FOSDEM. The purpose of the hackfest on unintentional emitters is to help us develop techniques to find and study the emissions with the hope of better understanding and characterizing how different devices behave. The hackfest outcomes could lead to important scientific and technical knowledge for how we understand the interference problems from these emitters. Can we characterize how a building and its various components look by its EM emissions? How about parts of a city and the effects of traffic, subways, and other infrastructure?

The FOSDEM presentation will review the work that went on during the three-day hackfest and report on any resulting techniques/technology and what we learned about the unintentional emissions around us. It will be a relatively short talk presented without slides as a quick wrap-up to the FOSDEM SDR audience.


Photo of Tom Rondeau Tom Rondeau