FreeDV 2016 Road Map

About a year ago I posted a FreeDV 2015 Road Map. Time for a review and to make plans for 2016.

Summary of 2015

It was a really good year for me professionally, many goals achieved or pushed forward, and a few unexpected digressions that has opened up interesting new horizons. Highlights include:

  1. The SM1000 FreeDV Adaptor entered production, is selling steadily, and we are now making the 3rd batch. Some encouraging contributions from the community (thanks Stuart for your firmware work).
  2. Some exciting test results using FreeDV on VHF channels (thanks Daniel) lead to the SM2000 VHF DV radio project. I’ve spent the last few months prototyping hardware for this project and Rick, KA8BMA, is now working on the CAD for Rev A. Lots of exploration and development of VHF modems (thanks Brady).
  3. The FreeDV 700B mode was released, using a completely new, very robust, coherent PSK HF modem. This met the goal of open source DV down to 0dB SNR. The weakness of this mode is speech quality – it’s OK for brief exchanges at low SNRs but difficult to use conversationally.
  4. World wide efforts at promoting FreeDV, such as the QSO party (thanks AREG), conference and Hamfest presentations (especially in the US – thanks to Mel and Bruce and many others), the FreeDV Beacon (thanks John), and weekly WIA broadcasts (thanks Mark and Andy).
  5. The Masking and Trellis work (thanks Eric VK5HSE) shows great promise for improved quality and robustness to channel errors.

FreeDV 2016 Road Map

Here are my goals for 2016:

  1. Time for another iteration of FreeDV quality/robustness work. The goal is a FreeDV mode with the robustness of FreeDV 700B but the speech quality of FreeDV 1600. I’d also like address robustness to different microphone/audio/acoustic conditions. This involves a lot of detail work and on air, real world tuning. I’ll call this mode 700C for now, although I have no idea what the final bit rate will be. A higher quality mode for VHF work would also be useful.
  2. Iteratively develop the SM1000, add a USB virtual comm port for configuration, progress the UI, port a 700-something mode, improve internal microphone quality.
  3. Release VHF FreeDV modes, one mode that runs through $60 HTs, another that outperforms closed source DV by 10dB. Integrate these modes into the FreeDV GUI program, FreeDV API, SM1000, and SM2000.
  4. Demonstrate advanced VHF DV features with the SM2000, such as a low cost TDMA repeater, diversity reception, and outperforming analog FM and closed source DV systems by 10dB: on an open hardware/open software platform.
  5. Increase on-air FreeDV activity so it’s easy to find a daily QSO on 20m and 40m, through the FreeDV Beacon, conference and Hamfest promotion, QSO Party, broadcasts, test and tune meets where we help get SM1000s/FreeDV running.

Here’s a work flow diagram of how it all fits together:

Other Projects

Some other (open source) project ideas, not strictly connected with FreeDV:

  1. Project Whack a Mole: A phase based direction finding system that uses a fairly simple RF mixer board (LO+mixer+combiner) to frequency multiplex signals from two antennas into a SDR receiver. I have this partially working on the bench; it can measure the phase shift between the two input ports on the 70cm Ham band. Next step is to connect real antennas and try it with real off air signals. The phase shift can be used to determine a bearing. It’s not Doppler, there is no switching of antennas. The phase is estimated using some AM-like signal processing of the two signals. With two antennas there is a 180 degree ambiguity. If the system works I’ll look into resolving that ambiguity. Would be nice to work with someone on this, it’s kind of a side project.
  2. Urban Noise Cancellation: Like many HF radio users, I am experiencing S9 background noise levels on the lower HF bands. It’s got to be fixed. I have some ideas on how this can be partially canceled using DSP techniques and two or even one receiver(s). None of my friends and colleagues believe it can be done but that’s never stopped me before. Yes I am aware of analog products that attempt a similar approach (e.g. from MJF). This is very different.
  3. Open Telemetry Radio: The Near Space Balloon community are migrating to closed source chip sets for telemetry. This needs to be fixed. In October I showed just how powerful open source modems, as applied to telemetry, can be. I would like to develop an open source sub $10 UHF radio for telemetry. My modem experience suggests we can run most of the radio in software on a micro-controller. Many applications in IoT as well, so this project would lead to “open source” IoT radio hardware.

Note: asking me “when” for any of the above will get you an invitation to help “make it happen”!

2 thoughts on “FreeDV 2016 Road Map”

  1. Regarding “Release VHF FreeDV modes, one mode that runs through $60 HTs”: are you talking about an audio-tone modem through the analog I/O of a cheap FM HT or something else? If the former, what sort of data rates do you think you can get? I understand that 700-1600 is all that is necessary for Codec2 voice, but I’m curious if you think there is room for a misc. data channel.

  2. Hi Dean,

    The former, as per Modems for VHF Digital Voice, 2400 bit/s quite possible. Would like to work with someone to develop the modem a little further and test this over real radios.

    I lean towards packet data, so the channel can be used for voice/data frames as required, rather than reserving x bit/s for data.

    – David

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