As you are no doubt aware, a software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio communication system in which components that have traditionally been implemented in hardware (e.g., mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators / demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or an embedded system.
Have you heard of Lime Microsystems? This UK-based company has made quite a name for itself with its field-programmable RF (FPRF) transceivers, which are used to create SDRs. Lime’s FPRF devices offer an unprecedented level of configurability and allow system designers to create wireless communication networking equipment that can be set and reconfigured to run on any wireless communications frequency and mobile standard.
Way back in the mists of time we used to call 2017, the guys and gals at Lime launched their LimeSDR Mini to provide a highly cost-optimized hardware platform for high-performance digital and RF designs.
A brief summary of the original LimeSDR Mini’s key features are as follows: 69 x 31.4mm in size, 20 grams in weight, flaunting an FPRF (Lime Microsystems LMS7002M) and flourishing an FPGA (Intel Altera MAX 10 with 16K lookup tables (LUTs) and 45X 18×18 multipliers), along with 4MB on-board Flash, USB 3.0 Type-A (FTDI FT601 controller) and 2x coaxial RF (SMA) connectors, each of which can be switched between high and low frequency bands.
You may not be surprised to learn that most SDRs require high levels of RF and protocol expertise. Contra-wise, you may be surprised to learn that — if you know how to use an app store — you are pretty much ready to use the LimeSDR Mini because its integrated Snappy Ubuntu Core means you can download LimeSDR apps from developers around the world (you can also create, share, and/or sell your own apps if you wish).
The reason I’m waffling on about all of this here is I just heard that the chaps and chapesses at Lime are poised to discontinue the original LimeSDR Mini and launch a new LimeSDR Mini 2.0 CrowdSupply Project.
The LimeSDR Mini 2.0 will have the same form factor as the original LimeSDR Mini and it will use the same LMS7002 FPRF transceiver, thereby supporting a frequency range of 10MHz to 3.5GHz with a 40MHz RF bandwidth. The big difference is that it will boast a new FPGA in the form of an ECP5 from Lattice Semiconductor, thereby providing 44K LUTs and 72 X 18×18 multipliers (as compared to the 16K LUTs and 45X multipliers in the MAX 10), all of which will allow designers to incorporate more features and functions into their cunning creations.
Not only is the ECP5 more readily available than the Intel MAX 10 FPGA used in the previous design, but it has an extensive set of open-source tools and a great community of developers.
Like its predecessor, the LimeSDR Mini 2.0 platform will be ideal for developing logic-intensive wireless systems. It will provide students, inventors, and developers a perfect platform upon which to learn, experiment, and develop without getting bogged down by limited functionality and without getting tied down by expensive proprietary devices. When it comes to deploying products, it will be possible to use the LimeSDR Mini 2.0 “as-is” for small and medium volume production quantities; alternatively, its open-source design can be incorporated into cost-optimized products for mass production.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself with an urge to start playing with SDRs, and I hate having an urge I cannot scratch, as it were. How about you? Could you be tempted to dip your toes in the SDR waters?