Software-Defined Architecture: Modern GNSS Simulation

Since the time of the wheel, humans have been inventing technology that has led to a change in the way we go about doing things. The same is true in the world of GPS/GNSS simulation. In the old days, you had basically a single choice: simulation using fixed, allocated hardware. Today, a disruptive innovation called software-defined architecture is rapidly displacing traditional bespoke architecture.

I believe the future of simulation lies in this unique, innovative and thoroughly modern approach. Let’s look at how the two compare.

Simulation Using Fixed, Allocated Hardware (Bespoke)

This approach uses custom-made hardware that is produced in small quantities. Although common, it is inefficient and not very sustainable. I think of it as an “old school” approach: It is time-tested, but there are better ways available.

Why do I say that? Because, in addition to being confined and compartmentalized, a fixed hardware approach can be very limiting, offering several disadvantages:

  • Prolonged, costly upgrades and installation that require additional hardware and labor
  • The use of key features is isolated by project
  • The number of signals is limited by FPGA channels
  • Hardware is custom-made, and produced only in small quantities
  • Typically five years or more between hardware evolutions

Simulation Using an Open, Software-Defined Architecture

With software-defined GNSS Simulation, you gain maximum scalability and flexibility with agile, rapid development. Upgrading to the latest features requires only a simple software download and licensed software installation.

When you look at its many advantages, software-defined GNSS Simulation is clearly superior, offering optimal value:

  • It is dynamic and future-proofed
  • Get high-end performance at a much lower cost
  • Buy only what is needed today and upgrade to greater capability later
  • Use mass-produced high-end SDRs and GPUs and benefit from economy of scale
  • Integrate interference signals with no specialized hardware
  • New and experimental signals can be easily customized
  • Take advantage of COTS hardware performance upgrades to increase system performance – typical two-year cycles
  • Open-source libraries and plug-ins to build on the software solution

Software Defined GNSS Simulation: The Difference

  • Lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) – A lower cost of the initial system (hardware/software) and lower support costs mean you can use your budget for other projects, purchase multiple systems or add more software solutions.
  • Non-Proprietary Software – Dedicated Hardware is not flexible, and lacks the ability to create non-GNSS signals from same platform. Software-only solutions enable you to bring your own box, resulting in less hardware and scalability for future uses.
  • Software Defined Radios (SDR) – Radios are easy to reconfigure based on test requirements. You can easily add/remove signals at click of a mouse or upgrade your systems. The result is an increase in efficiency with fast test setups, no hardware configuration, and no external devices needed for advanced applications like jamming and spoofing.
  • All-Inclusive Modern Software – All testing in a stable, responsive, easy-to-use, single package, so you can spend less time setting up, and more time simulating.
  • Automation & Integration – Commands and info are already stored in the software. You can integrate with other systems more quickly and experience the exponential gains in productivity from automation.

Key Considerations Before You Decide

If you’re torn between the traditional approach vs. the more modern, software-defined approach, here are a few things to ask yourself:

  • Are you concerned with jamming and spoofing?
  • Will you need to see the receiver at the same time you are testing?
  • Do you need to automate your tests?
  • Will any new or inexperienced engineers be using the system?
  • Are you still paying for channels and satellites?
  • How many times have you had to upgrade your hardware over the years?

In every case, I think you’ll see the benefits of moving up to software-defined architecture.

Don’t be left behind relying on old-school GNSS simulators. It’s time to move to the future … and that is software-defined simulation.

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