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Vibe: Innovation in Commodity Coherence


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. OBJECTIVE: Beamforming is utilized in numerous applications from wireless communications, acoustics, radar, and sonar as a means to direct a specific signal towards a particular receiver. Such applications typically require computing power to perform the signal processing and a sensor array to send or receive signals. These requirements are tailored to the specific application and may cause significant impact to the overall resources available for operations. Given the ubiquity of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) compute, sensors, and sensor platforms, there are multiple applications that could benefit from utilizing commodity hardware in lieu of requiring application-specific technologies. Beamforming requires relative time synchronization between nodes within an array and the ability to establish range metrics between senders prior to being able to beamform to a specific receiver. Typically, arrays are custom built where such information is already known or can easily be calculated. However, the creation of an array from heterogeneous commodity hardware requires such calculations to be performed on-the-fly and repeatedly as there could be modifications to the array during signal emissions. This Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) topic is seeking technologies for achieving time synchronization and coherence from a cooperating set of commodity devices. Vibe performers will explore novel approaches and develop prototypes for establishing distributed frequency coherence between a set of commodity devices to be able to achieve beamforming to a known receiver. Vibe is interested in any hardware/software methods that can achieve beamforming while also minimizing customized hardware solutions, maintaining a small form factor, and leaving the hardware inconspicuous. DESCRIPTION: Performers will develop novel approaches for utilizing commodity hardware for achieving distributed coherence and beamforming. Vibe prototypes should be able to demonstrate the ability to establish and maintain time synchronization necessary for coherent beamforming of a given frequency and waveform to a receiver. This can range from audible acoustic, ultrasonic, GSM, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, or other frequencies and waveforms of commercial/military interest and value. This receiver will also be controlled by the performer, but must also utilize COTS technologies to validate the transmitted signal. PHASE I: This topic is soliciting Direct to Phase II (DP2) proposals only. Therefore, Phase I proposals will not be accepted or reviewed. Phase I feasibility will be demonstrated through evidence of: a completed feasibility study or a basic prototype system; definition and characterization of properties desirable for both Department of Defense (DoD) and civilian use; and comparisons with alternative state-of-the-art methodologies (competing approaches). This includes determining, insofar as possible, the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of ideas appearing to have application to the core objective of achieving coherence between a cooperating set of commodity devices. Proposers interested in submitting a DP2 proposal must provide documentation to substantiate that the scientific and technical merit and feasibility described above have been met and describe the potential military or commercial applications. DP2 documentation should include: • technical reports describing results and conclusions of existing work, particularly regarding the commercial opportunity or DoD insertion opportunity, and risks/mitigations, assessments; • presentation materials and/or white papers; • technical papers; • test and measurement data; • prototype designs/models; • performance projections, goals, or results in different use cases This collection of material will verify mastery of the required content for DP2 consideration. DP2 proposers must also demonstrate knowledge, skills, and ability in computer science, mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, and software engineering. For detailed information on DP2 requirements and eligibility, please refer to the DoD BAA and the DARPA Instructions for this topic. PHASE II: The goal of Vibe is to design and evaluate an array to achieve coherent signal transmission and beamforming utilizing commodity hardware. Proposals should include development, installation, integration, demonstration and/or test and evaluation of the proposed prototype system. These activities should focus specifically on: 1. Evaluating the adapted solution against the proposed objectives. 2. Describing in detail how the installed solution differs from the non-defense commercial offering to solve DoD need(s) as well as how it can be scaled for wide adoption, i.e., modified for scale and broader signals. 3. Identifying the proposed solution's clear transition path considering input from affected stakeholders, including but not limited to, end users, engineering, sustainment, contracting, finance, legal, and cyber. Specifying the solution's integration with other current and potential future solutions. 4. Describing the solution's sustainability, i.e., supportability. Identifying other specific DoD or Governmental customers for the solution. Phase II will culminate in a system demonstration using one or more compelling use case(s) consistent with commercial opportunities, DoD opportunities, and/or insertion into a DARPA program. The below schedule of milestones and deliverables is provided to establish expectations and desired results for the Phase II effort. Schedule/Milestones/Deliverables: Proposers will execute Research and Development (R&D) plan as described in their proposal. Proposers will also complete a commercialization plan that addresses relevant material costs and potential material/equipment suppliers. • Month 1: Phase II Kickoff briefing (with annotated slides) to the DARPA Program Manager (PM) (in person or virtual, as needed) including: any updates to the proposed plan and technical approach, risks/mitigations, schedule (inclusive of dependencies) with planned capability milestones and deliverables, proposed metrics, and plan for prototype demonstration/validation. • Months 3, 5, 7: Technical progress reports detailing technical progress made, tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, a technical plan for the remainder of Phase II (while this will normally report progress against the plan detailed in the proposal or presented at the Kickoff briefing, it is understood that scientific discoveries, competition, and regulatory changes may all have impacts on the planned work and DARPA must be made aware of any revisions that result), planned activities, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM. • Month 9: Interim technical progress briefing (live system demo with annotated slides) to the DARPA PM (in-person or virtual as needed) detailing progress made (include quantitative assessment of capability developed to date), tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, planned activities, and technical plan for the remainder of Phase II, the demonstration/verification plan for the end of Phase II, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM. • Month 12, 15, 18: Quarterly technical progress reports detailing technical progress made, tasks accomplished, major risks/mitigations, a technical plan for the remainder of Phase II (with necessary updates as in the parenthetical remark for Months 3, 5, and 7), planned activities, trip summaries, and any potential issues or problem areas that require the attention of the DARPA PM. • Month 21/Final Phase II Deliverables: Final architecture demonstration with documented details, demonstrating the establishment of an array using commodity hardware with sufficient timing and ranging capabilities; demonstrating beamforming to a designated receiver, documented application programming interfaces; any other necessary documentation (including, at a minimum, user manuals and a detailed system design document; and the end of phase commercialization plan). Proposers must demonstrate in their proposal the ability to apply for and obtain a Facility Clearance Letter (FCL) with secret safeguarding, or already possess an FCL with secret safeguarding by Phase III. Proposals must outline the proposer’s security plan for conducting prototyping, software development and testing of DoD applications at the collateral secret level by Phase III. All proposals must be unclassified, but proposers may submit classified annexes with prior approval of the DARPA Information Innovation Office Program Security Officer (I2O PSO); for instructions on classified annex submittals, contact Security Classification Guides governing potential classified Vibe applications may be provided to authorized U.S. contractor proposers upon request. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Phase III work will be oriented towards transition and commercialization of the developed Vibe technologies. Phase III refers to work that derives from, extends, or completes an effort made under prior SBIR funding agreements, but is funded by sources other than the SBIR Program. Primary Vibe support will be to national efforts in both commercial and military applications for novel signal delivery and resilient communications. Such technology can be used for protecting transmitters, localizing specific receivers, and providing signal in non-traditional environments. REFERENCES: 1. K. Alemdar, D. Varshey, S. Mohanti, U. Muncuk, K. Chowdhury, "RFClock: Timing, Phase and Frequency Synchronization for Distributed Wireless Networks,” ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom 2021), New Orleans, LA, USA, 2021. 2. F. Quitin, M. M. U. Rahman, R. Mudumbai and U. Madhow, "A Scalable Architecture for Distributed Transmit Beamforming with Commodity Radios: Design and Proof of Concept," in IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 1418-1428, March 2013, doi: 10.1109/TWC.2013.012513.121029. KEYWORDS: coherence, ranging, distributed coordination, beamforming
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