Distributed Real Time Spectrum Monitoring

Radio interference is unwanted signals caused by faulty or illegal equipment that emits energy outside of legally controlled limited. It can interrupt all manner of equipment and cause chaos.
- Nicholas Hill, CEO.

The Challenge

Organisations with assets or critical processes that rely on radio signalling can range from international airports and power stations to office blocks. This requires constant monitoring for radio interference threats, and responding effectively to them when they occur.

Monitoring the radio spectrum for interference poses a range of challenges. There is the need to monitor a large amount of bandwidth in the electromagnetic spectrum concurrently, driving the need for complex receiver hardware with wide instantaneous bandwidths as well as a capability to process large volumes of data in real time.

Another key challenge is the wide geographic areas that need coverage. This ideally requires a dense network of receivers to identify and locate signals in amongst wanted signals. The need to have a distributed population of complex receivers has previously been unexplored, primarily due to the cost of hardware and the burden of deploying the infrastructure.

 

The Approach

Over recent years, the cost of small Software Defined Radio (SDR) platforms has been falling whilst their capability has improved. These technical advances allowed Plextek to redefine the trade-offs in spectrum monitoring to create a network of low cost sensor nodes.

Angle of arrival techniques were implemented using phase locked dual channel SDRs allowing better performance than a simple power of arrival based system, which struggles to locate devises not surrounded by SDR nodes.

Signal processing was implemented to allow the SDR deployment to cooperate as a collective, reducing detection false alarms and allowing better localisation in a multi-path rich environment.

The Outcome

Plextek have demonstrated that a network of distributed low cost devices can provide a wider coverage and better detection of lower amplitude threats across a site with complex propagation characteristics than traditional single sensor systems.

Plextek’s distributed spectrum monitoring system is a new and powerful platform for monitoring interference issues at high value sites.

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Drone Inspection of Solar Farms

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. As luctus nisi viverra libero aliquam, and viverra ante arises. Mauris nec ante vel is posuere.
- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Government incentives and lower cost Photo Voltaic (PV) cells have seen solar generation expand across the UK over the past decade. Solar energy is now capable of contributing close to 10 GW to the national grid in peak seasons.

Consequently, solar farms are big business. Maximising the efficiency of their operation really pays off for operators, but requires complex maintenance and advanced monitoring.

Our client, Above Surveying, approach Plextek to improve their inspection methods, previously a labour intensive activity performed by highly trained analysts.

As the business grew, airborne drones were utilised as a scalable solution to capture precise thermographic and video diagnostic data.

The challenge was to translate data collected from an airborne drone into a format that machine-learning tools could process. This involved removing solar glint and other artefacts and rationalising images with ground plans.

The Approach

Plextek provided consultancy recommending the best image processing and machine-learning work flows to allow automated data analysis.

Plextek worked closely with Above Surveying technical teams to assess feasibility of different approaches, settling on a recommendation that could be easily implemented within their existing processes and workflow.

The Outcome

Plextek’s input helped Above Surveying automate their analysis, removing a bottleneck to expanding their business.

Above surveying have now checked over 8.5 million solar panel modules, identifying more than 200,000 defects, allowing their solar farm customers to optimise efficiency and revenue.

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Re-imagining 5G Broadband with mm-Wave

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. As luctus nisi viverra libero aliquam, and viverra ante arises. Mauris nec ante vel is posuere.
- Philip Handley, Smart DCC Ltd.

The Challenge

Starry is re-imagining broadband access by developing an ecosystem of products designed to simplify and improve our connected lives.

At the centre of this is a proprietary pre-standard 5G mmWave technology that offers Starry’s customers high-speed broadband access, the vital ‘last mile’ delivery stage for any broadband provider.

Testing a pre-standard technology at mm-Wave frequencies in mass production takes fresh thinking.

Connectorised ports are not desirable for multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) devices at mmWave frequencies, so a radiated test setup is required.

This is the conventional way for laboratory testing, but when you have a mass produced product, creating a high volume automated test setup is no mean feat.

The Approach

Plextek built a series of custom anechoic chambers and an automated over the air test system that could confirm correct operation of Starry’s proprietary pre-standard 5G protocol.

Plextek worked closely with Starry Engineers, adapting the test station as the product evolved during NPI (New Product Introduction).

All systems were built in the UK and deployed to Starry sites in Boston, and Texas in the USA.

The Outcome

Plextek’s test chambers were deployed on-time to meet Starry’s aggressive production schedule allowing full over the air test coverage of an NPI product.

Starry subsequently adopted a similar system for their regression testing, as part of a continuous development pipeline process.

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Electronics Manufacturing

Home » Case Study » Industrial Automation

The Challenge

Plextek works with large defence contractors on a range of complex hardware programmes and often delays of designing a single module can set back the whole project.

These challenging requirements mean that the appropriate technical expertise is not always widely available, making delays hard to recover from.

Design, manufacturing, test and supply chain resource are all required from the start to allow potential issues to be prevented and a concurrent engineering approach to be taken.

The Approach

We are quick to understand requirements and communicate these between design, project and quality assurance teams, becoming a valuable extension of our client’s design team.

Our specialist manufacturing, test and supply chain engineers are involved from the start of every project. Manufacturing and test plans are then generated to provide a framework essential for robust design and supply.

As an independent company, we select, audit and test suppliers and materials based on evidence not ease.

The Outcome

Selecting the best resource for the requirement or working with existing suppliers, we’re able to share our knowledge of both low and high volume factory test systems to implement a solution that gets results.

We pride ourselves on delivering fully tested production hardware and take the strain of this process off clients by managing on-going issues, such as component obsolesce and changes to environmental legislation.

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