Convergence of Software Defined Radio: WiFi, iBeacon and ePaper

With the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT), the requirements for scalability and flexibility are continuously increasing, thus easy reconfigurable systems such as Software Defined Radio (SDR) are gaining more popularity. The paper provides an overview of the related work in the field of SDR technologies and solutions for convergence of SDR applications. Furthermore, we analyze how the convergence of three selected SDR applications such as WiFi, iBeacon and ePaper can address different user needs. Finally, the paper presents the configuration of a SDR testbed and preliminary measurement results.



As IoT solutions gain more and more popularity over time, wireless connected devices continuously evolve towards larger, highly scalable and more flexible networks. The ICT industry witnesses a convergence of different technologies into new solutions that provide innovative services and functionalities. Furthermore, many existing systems such as Software Defined Radio (SDR) adopt cloud infrastructure to improve their adaptation mechanisms.

The evolution of such solutions rely heavily on more advanced development environments, which provides an interactive environment for developing applications and controlling their execution, a real-time infrastructure planner for deploying applications in Clouds, and an autonomous system adaptation platform for monitoring and adapting system behavior [1].

SDR can be defined as a radio communication system that is characterized by the fact that components that were typically implemented in hardware are mainly implemented by software on personal computers or embedded systems [2].

Software Defined Radio is a single radio that can be used for many modes by simply reconfiguring the radio with different software - hence the name [3]. The software may be pre-loaded in the device and may be available for Over-The-Air (OTA) download or simply downloadable from a Website. This flexible architecture will lower cost and complexity and may improve performance in terms of power consumption and reduced interference in the radio. However, SDR still demonstrates many challenges that must be solved, such as security issues and the lack of available frequency spectrum. [4]

SDR Technology aims to reduce costs and promote wireless applications as a necessary component of daily life. The flexibility of the software-defined radio consists of the fact that the replacement or customization of software programs can easily change the functionality of the radio. SDR provides the required means to simplify the process of upgrading to new modes and to boost the performance of the system without the need to replace hardware components [5].

The evolution of SDR is based on advances done in digital processing of radio-frequency signals based on software development and silicon chips manufacturing. These designs can be described as complex because they integrate mathematical functions into hardware components to perform processes as frequency selection, digitization and downconversion to baseband.

Even if the implementation of different radio types does not necessary require SDR technologies, SDR plays a major role in providing them with the needed flexibility to achieve their full potential by means of cost reduction and increased system performance.

  • An adaptive radio is a radio in which communications systems provide the required means to monitor their own performance and dynamically modify their operating parameters, thus enhancing their overall performance. The implementation of SDR technologies in adaptive radio systems enables a high degree of freedom in adaptation.
  • A cognitive ratio is a radio in which communication systems are characterized by a high degree of awareness regarding their own internal status and environment. To achieve predefined objectives, cognitive radios can self-adapt.
  • An intelligent radio is a cognitive radio that uses machine learning to develop and continuously enhance its adaptation mechanism. The purpose of an intelligent radio is to dynamically adapt its operating parameters to the context in order to properly serve end-user demands.

Thus, the current paper intends to present related work in the field of SDR technology and the advantages that the convergence between Wi-Fi, iBeacon and ePaper can provide.

The paper is organized as follows: Section II presents related work in the domain of convergent SDR technologies, Section III describes the convergence of three specific SDR applications (WiFi, ePaper and iBeacon) providing preliminary measurement results based on the proposed testbed, while Section IV concludes the paper.


The software defined radio concept is based on Dr. Joseph Mitola’s [6] research in software radio and cognitive radio technologies. Dr. Mitola presented software defined radio as “a set of Digital Signal Processing primitives (and) a meta-level system for combing the primitives into a communication system function and a set of target processors on which the software radio is hosted for real-time communications” [6].

Recent research in the area of software defined radio brought contributions and changes to the original definition of the concept. Thus, the Software Radio Forum group adapted the original definition to include “concepts, technologies and standards for wireless communications systems and devices, to support the needs of all user domains including consumer, commercial, public safety, and military markets, and stakeholders such as regulatory authorities and a collection of interfaces and standards” [7].

The spectral efficiency of modern networks is analyzed in concordance with the theoretical peak capacity, thus the requirements of communication radio engineers will increase at a higher rate than the evolution of hardware systems. This phenomenon fits the Moore’s law gap, as presented in Fig. 1. Therefore, the idea that SDRs can benefit from algorithms customization using software misses the concept that communication engineers can always pursue communication algorithms unrealizable to the target SDR, irrespective of the wireless protocol.

Representation of Moore's law gap
Figure 1. Representation of Moore's law gap

This chapter presents communication solutions based on software defined radio (SDR) available on the market. [5] is a console for Software Defined Radio (SDR) receivers and transceivers that provides an interface for all SDR users and it is continuously improved with new features. The solution is based on three major components, as presented in Fig. 2:

  • Console, where the user can observe the signals;
  • Server which runs on a remote computer and connects the remote SDR radios to the console;
  • Analyzer where the user creates sonograms from long data recordings.

Console for data recordings vizualization
Figure 2. Console for data recordings vizualization

FlexRadio Systems [8] provides software defined radio (SDR) technology to meet the requirements both of amateur and professional users. The range of expertise covers the following areas: high dynamic range narrowband HF/VHF receivers, ultra-wide bandwidth HF/VHF/UHF/SHF receivers, direct sampled multi-channel HF/VHF receivers, direct up conversion HF transmitters, multi-channel synchronous receivers, Ethernet-based HF/VHF transceivers, Ethernet-based digital RF capture and data transport, HF/VHF/UHF/SHF low noise receiver front-end design and FPGA and SystemOnChip based Digital Signal Processing for RF.

The Small Form Factor (SFF) Software-Defined Radio (SDR) Development Platform [9] is a solution that provides a wide variety of signal chain hardware as well as a software board support package based on software development tools. It was designed based on DSP and FPGA technology and it mainly addresses special portable SDR needs of public safety and commercial markets. The SFF SDR solution consists of three modules which offer developers flexible development solutions:

  • Digital Processing Module;
  • Data Conversion Module;
  • RF Module.

The SFF SDR Development Platform facilitates the creation and maintenance of public safety applications, band communications, vehicular systems, transponders and broadband data systems, RFID readers, WiMAX and Wi-Fi customer premises equipment. Moreover, a SDR simulator for modelling trust in cognitive radio systems can be used to analyse the performance of resource allocation [10].

The USRP SDR [11] platform provided by National Instruments addresses a wide range of applications in the field of industry, research and education. Powered by the LabVIEW Communications System Design Software, the USRP delivers a platform for designing and rapid prototyping of wireless communications systems and communication protocols, including for 5G networks. The development of the 5G technology addresses not only future capacity constrains but also challenges imposed by the reliability of the actual network infrastructure. By using NI’s Massive MIMO Software Architecture [12], users can develop Massive MIMO testbeds to prototype large-scale antenna systems using LabVIEW and USRP software defined radios. The integration between LabVIEW and SDR platforms diminishes the low level hardware complexity and provides the researchers with the system partitioning flexibility required for easing the development of algorithms.

The DECT Ultra Low Energy (ULE) [13] is a technology that provides medium ranged bidirectional radio communication between different types of Portable Devices and Radio Fixed Parts. This technology is designed to ensure data protection and a low power consumption while providing the same maximum radio coverage range as standard DECT technology. Parameters such as coverage and receiver sensitivity may be adjusted for specific applications due to power consumption and spectrum use considerations, thus making this technology usable in ensuring convergence between different SDRs.

Social WiFi [14] is an analytics and marketing tool that encourages business owners to identify and interact with their clientele by gathering feedback from the market. This can be achieved by allowing customers to log in to the Wi-Fi network using a captive portal with authentication using social media platforms accounts or by filling out a form. Social WiFi helps business owners lower marketing costs, enhance guest engagement and grow customer database. This solution becomes increasingly used in restaurants, coffee shops, bars, hotels etc. to enhance the interaction between business owners/managers/marketers and their clientele.


In this section we present the configuration of a testbed consisting of three specific SDR solutions which converge, namely Wi-Fi, iBeacon and ePaper implemented using LANCOM Wireless ePaper Starter Set [15]. In addition to that, this section provides preliminary measurement results.

A. WiFi
For the WiFi infrastructure we use an 11n WLAN enterprise-class access point, LANCOM L-322E [14], which simultaneously provides 802.11n clients with WLAN in the 2.4-GHz and 5 Ghz band using an optimized network load for speeds up to 300 Mbps.

Radio-controlled battery-powered ePaper displays and iBeacon technologies are supported by the access point in an interference-free parallel operation, as presented in Fig. 3.

Convergence of WiFi, ePaper and iBeacon
Figure 3. Convergence of WiFi, ePaper and iBeacon

The wireless module can also be software-programmed to reach a maximum frequency of 2 radio modules at 5-GHz if required. The Purple WiFi Guest and Social WiFi system eases users’ access through social networks and enables user groups to provide a branded experience while marketing to previous and current guests.

In Fig. 4 and 5 we present a spectral scan on two interfaces running parallel radio technologies in one WiFi access point at 5 Ghz and 2,4 Ghz.

Spectral Scan on Interface WLAN-1 at 5 GHz
Figure 4. Spectral Scan on Interface WLAN-1 at 5 GHz

Spectral Scan on Interface WLAN-2 at 2,4 GHz
Figure 5. Spectral Scan on Interface WLAN-2 at 2,4 GHz

Purple Wi-Fi is a cloud-based solution that detects all nearby Wi-Fi and provides the following features: Wi-Fi Analytics, Wi-Fi Marketing, Social Wi-Fi and Content Filtering.

  • WiFi Analytics – The information collected from the Purple WiFi system can be accessed and visualized by users through the Purple Portal. By using this feature, business owners can dynamically adapt their market strategy by using real-time customer data and insights, such as age, gender, accessing frequency, location, data usage, etc. Such information can be obtained, with user’s consent, through social networks accounts or short forms that users fill out in order to join the Wi-Fi networks. If some non-mandatory input such as age or gender is not available or if the user simply doesn’t allow access to such information, the tool will use other available data made available by the user in order to analyze, segment and compose messaging by audience.
  • WiFi Marketing – This set of tools is used for monitoring Wi-Fi logins and, based on the user information, promote the business in the online and offline environment through specific branding, promotions and advertising.
  • Social WiFi – Social WiFi is a tool that enhances the interaction between business owners / managers / marketers and their clientele by gathering feedback from the market and delivering customized promotional content. Customers who log in to the Purple WiFi network are given to option to “like” the venue’s Facebook page or to follow the business on Twitter or LinkedIn if they enjoy the service. Consequently, the user can receive a better QoS (Quality of Service) for the Internet connection [16]
  • Content Filtering – This tool ensures family-friendly Internet access within venues that provide public Wi-Fi by blocking blacklisted websites.

The WiFi solution provides mobility without requiring any major changes to the host-building infrastructure. Business users are provided with full access to the company network or the Internet by using the WLAN network. Furthermore, the solution can be extended for car-to-x communications [17].

The proposed solution diminishes or eliminates the need for wired LAN networks. Using WLAN instead of LAN networks can significantly reduce costs for the host entity and can provide a proper working environment for employees that are dependent on mobility, possibly solving the problem of access to RF white spaces [18].

B. iBeacon
The iBeacon standard [19] is a communication protocol developed by Apple based on Bluetooth Smart technology. It represents a technology that can facilitate the development of applications based on location awareness. A device that uses iBeacon sends radio waves to alert smartphones of its presence. iBeacon allows iOS devices to determine when a monitored object moves in or out of a specific region by sending radio waves to the device. When an iOS device detects signal from a beacon, it uses the signal to estimate the proximity to the beacon and also the accuracy of the proximity estimation.

The process of measuring the proximity to a device is known as “ranging” and it is based on common usage scenarios that rely on the accuracy of the assumption and the measured distance. The estimation is indicated by one of the four proximity states: immediate, near, far and unknown. To broadcast signals, iBeacon devices use Bluetooth Low Energy which is based on the 2.4GHz frequency.

Bluetooth Low Energy is designed for low energy consumption and it uses the wireless personal area network technology to transmit data over a short distance.

The difference between the iBeacon and other locationbased technologies is that the beacon is only a one way transmitter for the receiving iOS device and requires a specific application to be installed on the device so that the user can manage the connection with the beacons. The deployment of an iBeacon consists of the fact that this device can transmit its own unique identification number to the local area. Receiving devices can also connect to the iBeacon and retrieve data from the iBeacon’s service.

Location based services using beacons are addressing three types of audience: application developers, people who are deploying devices using the iBeacon technology and people who are creating devices using the iBeacon technology.

While using the wireless network, companies, applications or platforms can identify what is the role of the customers in the business environment so they will be able to send contextual and hyper-located messages and advertisements on their smartphones. C. ePaper
The electronic paper is a portable storage and display medium which can be repeatedly refreshed by electronic means to display new content. The content to be displayed can be downloaded from another source or created with a mechanical tool such as an electronic pencil. Furthermore, ePaper is a display technology that simulates the appearance of text written on paper [15]. To make the content more comfortable to be read, electronic paper provides a wider viewing angle than light-emitting displays and perfect readability in ambient light. Applications of electronic visual displays include electronic shelf labels, digital signage, time schedules for public transportation, billboards, portable signs, electronic newspapers and e-readers. In Fig. 6 we present three sizes of ePaper, which are daylight readable and graphics compatible, including QR and barcode.

Custom text displayed using three ePaper displays (7.4“, 4.4“, 2.7“)
Figure 6. Custom text displayed using three ePaper displays (7.4“, 4.4“, 2.7“)

The wireless ePaper solution is based on an innovative radio technology that lowers the power consumption due to the fact that it only requires power when the displayed content is changed. The solution provides a wide variety of functionalities and options for displaying information that allow the user to set up very own customized use case, for example for radio-controlled signage at universities [20].

One key functionality consists of the fact that the users can remotely upgrade the displayed content in real time. To allow a highly flexible use, the wireless ePaper displays eliminate the need for an external power supply or a physical network connection due to the fact that the devices are battery powered and radio controlled.

Furthermore, the data transmission process can be protected by a 128-bit key, allowing secure encryption and authentication standards for Eduroam [21], [22].

As future work we envision to implement a geographically distributed testbed in order to experiment with the convergence of radio communication to wireless ePaper displays, while associated access points support full WLAN infrastructure and also the iBeacon technology, so that all technologies are integrated into a single device in a way that allows them not interfere with one another.


In this paper we presented communications solutions based on software defined radio (SDR) technology that are currently available on the market, together with the approach of the convergence for three radio solutions: Wi-Fi, iBeacon and ePaper. Furthermore, preliminary measurement results are provided for wireless connected devices using a proposed SDR testbed, evolving towards larger, highly scalable and more flexible networks as IoT and cloud solutions gain more popularity. As future work we will make use of advanced development environments such as distributed cloud platforms in the creation and deployment of SDR applications due to the fact that these cloud platforms provide real time-infrastructure planners and means to monitor and adapt the system behavior.


The work has been supported in part by UEFISCDI Romania under grants no. 20/2012 “Scalable Radio Transceiver for Instrumental Wireless Sensor Networks - SaRaT-IWSN”, MobiWay, EV-BAT, CarbaDetect and Power2SME projects, grant no. 262EU/2013 „eWALL” support project, grant no. 337E/2014 ”Accelerate” project and by European Commission by FP7 IP project no. 610658/2013 ”eWALL for Active Long Living - eWALL” and European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 643963 (SWITCH project).



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[15] The technology behind LANCOM Wireless ePaper Displays -
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George Suciu, Marius Vochin Telecommunication Department University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest Bucharest, Romania, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cristian Diaconu, Victor Suciu, Cristina Butca R&D Department BEIA Consult International Bucharest, Romania


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