Posts Tagged ‘RF’

Case Studies: Point-to-point wireless bridge – Campus

Friday, December 6th, 2013

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Gyver Networks recently completed a point-to-point (PTP) bridge installation to provide wireless backhaul for a Boston college

Challenge:  The only connectivity to local network or Internet resources from this school’s otherwise modern athletic center was via a T1 line topping out at 1.5 Mbps bandwidth.  This was unacceptable not only to the faculty onsite attempting to connect to the school’s network, but to the attendees, faculty, and media outlets attempting to connect to the Internet during the high-profile events and press conferences routinely held inside.

Another vendor’s design for a 150 Mbps unlicensed wireless backhaul link failed during a VIP visit, necessitating a redesign by Gyver Networks.

http://www.gyvernetworks.com/TechBlog/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/IMG_0103.jpgResolution:  After performing a spectrum analysis of the surrounding environment, Gyver Networks determined that the wireless solution originally proposed to the school was not viable due to RF spectrum interference.

For a price point close to the unlicensed, failed design, Gyver Networks engineered a secure, 700 Mbps point-to-point wireless bridge in the licensed 80GHz band to link the main campus with the athletic center, providing adequate bandwidth for both local network and Internet connectivity at the remote site.  Faculty are now able to work without restriction, and event attendees can blog, post to social media, and upload photos and videos without constraint.

Researchers find way to increase range of wireless frequencies in smartphones

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Researchers have found a new way to tune the radio frequency in smartphones and other wireless devices that promises to reduce costs and improve performance of semiconductors used in defense, satellite and commercial communications.

Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) and Northeastern University in Boston presented the research findings at the 58th Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Conference in Denver this week.

Nian Sun, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern, said he’s been working on the process since 2006, when he received National Science Foundation grants for the research.

“In September, we had a breakthrough,” he said in a telephone interview. “We didn’t celebrate with champagne exactly, but we were happy.”

The research progressed through a series of about 20 stages over the past seven years. It wasn’t like the hundreds of failures that the Wright brothers faced in coming up with a working wing design, but there were gradual improvements at each stage, he said.

Today, state-of-the art radio frequency circuits in smartphones rely on tuning done with radio frequency (RF) varactors, a kind of capacitor. But the new process allows tuning in inductors as well, which could enhance a smartphone’s tunable frequency range from 50% to 200%, Sun said. Tuning is how a device finds an available frequency to complete a wireless transmission. It’s not very different from turning a dial on an FM radio receiver to bring in a signal.

Capacitors and inductors work in electronic circuits to move electrons; inductors change the direction of electrons in a circuit, while capacitors do not.

Most smartphones use 15 to 20 frequency channels to make connections, but the new inductors made possible by the research will potentially more than double the number of channels available on a smartphone or other device. The new inductors are a missing link long sought for in ways to upgrade the RF tunable frequency range in a tuned circuit.

“Researchers have been trying a while to make inductors tunable — to change the inductance value — and haven’t been very successful,” said Kwok Ng, senior director of device sciences at SRC. He said SRC has worked with Northeastern since 2011 on the project, investing up to $300,000 in the research work.

How it worked: Researchers at the Northeastern lab used a thin magnetic piezoelectric film deposit in an experimental inductor about a centimeter square, using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) processes . Piezoelectricity is an electromechanical interaction between the mechanical and electric states in a crystalline material. A crystal can acquire a charge when subjected to AC voltage.

What the researchers found is they could apply the right amount of voltage on a layer of metal going around a core of piezoelectric film to change its permeability. As the film changes permeability, its electrons can move at different frequencies.

Ng said the research means future inductors can be used to improve radio signal performance, which could eliminate the number of modules needed in a smartphone, with the potential to reduce the cost of materials.

Intel and Texas Instruments cooperated in the work, and the new inductor technology will be available for further industrial development by the middle of next year, followed by use in consumer applications by as earlier as late 2014.

Source:  networkworld.com

Oil, gas field sensors vulnerable to attack via radio waves

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Researchers with IOActive say they can shut down a plant from up to 40 miles away by attacking industrial sensors

Sensors widely used in the energy industry to monitor industrial processes are vulnerable to attack from 40 miles away using radio transmitters, according to alarming new research.

Researchers Lucas Apa and Carlos Mario Penagos of IOActive, a computer security firm, say they’ve found a host of software vulnerabilities in the sensors, which are used to monitor metrics such as temperature and pipeline pressure, that could be fatal if abused by an attacker.

Apa and Penagos are scheduled to give a presentation next Thursday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas but gave IDG News Service a preview of their research. They can’t reveal many details due to the severity of the problems.

“If you compromise a company on the Internet, you can cause a monetary loss,” Penagos said. “But in this case, [the impact] is immeasurable because you can cause loss of life.”

The U.S. and other nations have put increased focus in recent years on the safety of industrial control systems used in critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants, energy and water utilities. The systems, often now connected to the Internet, may have not had thorough security audits, posing a risk of life-threatening attacks from afar.

Apa and Penagos studied sensors manufactured by three major wireless automation system manufacturers. The sensors typically communicate with a company’s home infrastructure using radio transmitters on the 900MHz or 2.4GHz bands, reporting critical details on operations from remote locations.

Apa and Penagos found that many of the sensors contained a host of weaknesses, ranging from weak cryptographic keys used to authenticate communication, software vulnerabilities and configuration errors.

For example, they found some families of sensors shipped with identical cryptographic keys. It means that several companies may be using devices that all share the same keys, putting them at a greater risk of attack if a key is compromised.

They tested various attacks against the sensors using a specific kind of radio antennae the sensors use to communicate with their home networks. They found it was possible to modify readings and disable sensors from up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) away. Since the attack isn’t conducted over the Internet, there’s no way to trace it, Penagos said.

In one scenario, the researchers concluded that by exploiting a memory corruption bug, all sensors could be disabled and a facility could be shut down.

Fixing the sensors, which will require firmware updates and configuration changes, won’t be easy or quick. “You need to be physically connected to the device to update them,” Penagos said.

Apa and Penagos won’t identify the vendors of the sensors since the problems are so serious. They’ve handed their findings to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is notifying the affected companies.

“We care about the people working in the oil fields,” Penagos said.

Source:  computerworld.com

Microwave vies with fiber for high-frequency trading

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Stock traders turning to legacy microwave technologies for faster communications

In the world of high-frequency trading, where being ahead of the competition by a few milliseconds can mean profits worth millions of dollars, finance firms are increasingly looking to decades-old microwave technologies for a competitive edge.

Such firms are finding that wireless microwave technology, despite being in use for more than half a century, can deliver data a few milliseconds faster than fiber-optic cable. As a result, the once-stagnant industry of microwave communications is finding itself in an “arms race” among vendors of new competitive offerings, said Mike Persico, CEO of financial exchange service provider Anova Technologies.

“If you want to transport a little bit of data very fast, physics tells you that you have to go through air. Fiber is just not a good idea. It will slow you down,” explained StA(c)phane Ty , co-founder of Quincy Data, which provides microwave services to financial firms.

Ty was one of a number of speakers who discussed the increasing use of microwave technologies at the Quant Invest conference last week in New York.

For financial services firms, getting some piece of competitive intelligence a few milliseconds faster than their competitors can be worth the cost of securing a faster link. Stock trades can take less than a millisecond to execute.

Microwave technologies have been in use for point-to-point connections for decades by the military and by broadcast television stations. Point-to-point wireless microwave transmissions, which operate in the 1.0GHz to 30GHz part of the spectrum, require line of site, though signals can be repeated along the route. A good signal — such as between two mountaintops — can travel as much as 300 kilometers, or around 186 miles.

Microwave use has declined in the past few decades as fiber-optics communications has been able to offer greater bandwidth. These days, the largest microwave link can offer only 150Mbps, though work is being done to develop gigabit microwave technologies.

One advantage microwave still possesses, however, is speed of transmission. Electromagnetic waves travel faster through air than through glass. Light, an electromagnetic wave, can travel at 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second in a vacuum, and nearly that quickly through air. Light, however, can only travel at about 200,000 kilometers per second in even the clearest glass.

Another speed advantage microwave technologies offer is that their paths tend to be shorter, because signals can be beamed across the most direct path between two points. The length of fiber-optic routes tend to be elongated due to the inability to get right-of-way along the most optimum routes.

One new hot market for microwave providers is between New York and Chicago, both cities with many financial services firms. In 2010, Quincy Data had applied with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to secure a pathway between Chicago and New York. It found only one other provider that had also submitted a similar request. Since then dozens of other carriers have submitted requests to the agency. Quincy Data has been operational since July selling throughput between the two cities.

Based on the speed of light, the theoretical limit for sending information between New York and Chicago is 7.96 milliseconds. Right now, the state-of-the-art among microwave service providers is about 8.5 milliseconds, Persico said, noting how different providers are trying to secure the fastest rights-of-way and are developing technologies with the lowest latencies, all in an effort to offer the fastest sub-millisecond services for financial firms.

“We’ve been looking at [microwave technologies] for about a year now, in both Europe and the U.S.,” said Ian Jack, head of the U.S. infrastructure business for the New York Stock Exchange, during a panel discussion on the topic. “We’re looking at what the vendor community is doing and trying to leverage that as much as possible.”

Performance is still a big factor, Jack said. Performance “is one of our big challenges as a potential buyer. If you look at the actual uptime for services, it’s not brilliant. Every vendor has a new change, a revelation just around the corner, but we have yet to see that.”

Rain can hamper performance with microwave technologies. So can low-lying clouds. “Interference can bring an entire network down, and you don’t have that with fiber-optic networks,” Persico said. He noted that, eventually, microwave technology vendors will compete more on how robust their networks are, once they offer approximately the same latency times.

Source:  computerworld.com