Bay Area SDR Hackfest Day Two: Brainstorming Big Ideas & Big Solutions

The second day of the DARPA Bay Area SDR Hackfest brought more attendee engagement, team collaboration, and SDR problem solving. The UAV hangar stayed busy with test flights and Mission trials as our teams edged closer to solving the Hackfest Missions. Today was also marked by the first of many Brainstorming Sessions, which provide all Hackfest participants with a place to discuss immediate problems and successes associated with the work going on and discover other ideas, solutions, or overlaps that could be valuable for their respective goals.

Structured in a way to give everyone a fair shake at sharing their thoughts, successes, or needs, the Brainstorming Session proved to be a helpful environment for teams and attendees alike. During today’s Session, several Hackfest members shared opportunities and insights with the group – from a chance to work with open spectrum on a nation state scale to expertise in Python tools available for teams or attendees to use to tackle SDR obstacles. Hackfest speaker and president of the GNU Radio Foundation Ben Hilburn contributed to the discussion and called for ideas and support in helping to make SDR and GNU Radio a more accessible and user friendly technology. Ben noted that great strides have been made in making the technology approachable but more needs to be done to simplify its usability for a general tech audience. Falling in line with the purpose of these sessions, Ben called on interested attendees to help in this effort.

The Brainstorming Session energized collaboration and problem solving across the Hackfest. We saw an uptick in ideation from attendees, teams, and SDR experts, working together to solve the Hackfest Missions and other SDR challenges. I look forward to seeing what continued Brainstorming Sessions will bring to the forefront of our discussions and interactions.

In the evening, our second day of Lighting Talks brought three presenters to the stage. Different from the Brainstorming Sessions, these Talks are structured in 5-minute “pitches” to give attendees an opportunity to publicly engage the larger Hackfest community around everything from employment opportunities to stories about past works and hacks. Today’s presentations introduced the audience to a drone detection company, a new tool designed to “fuzz” CPU onboard units, and a challenge to ideate solutions in the hypothetical event that the noise floor goes over 40dB and gravely impacts GPS, radar, and communications.

We closed out the day with two compelling speaker presentations focused on the center piece of our event – SDR. Ben Hilburn returned to the stage to discuss the history of SDR and the GNU Radio Project, tracking its progress from its inception in the early ‘80’s with the creation of free and open source software. Over the years, the Project has been fueled by the growth in affordable hardware and an explosion in software development in SDR. Ben showed us how this tech evolution has impacted everything from radio astronomy and satellite imagery to wildlife tracking and pulsar detection.

Heather Kirksey with the Linux Foundation and OPNFV was our second speaker of the night. The Linux Foundation and OPNFV are playing a critical role in supporting the telco and networking industry embrace open source. Heather discussed the various efforts in play across the foundation to help these monolithic organizations reimagine everything from how they complete infrastructure updates to testing using open source and its supporting community. The presentation underscored the critical impact open source technology is having on a global scale.

Day Two brought us new opportunities to discuss big ideas and even bigger solutions to the challenges surrounding SDR and its supporting ecosystem. The momentum continues to build here at the Hackfest as we head into Day Three.