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Model Your Way to Project-Level Success

Dec. 5, 2019
In this Q&A, Rick Gentile from MathWorks discusses his goal for his current blog series along with topics like hybrid beamforming and RF and antenna modeling.

Many have already seen your name thanks to the Algorithms to Antenna blogs. What do you want readers to gain from them?

MATLAB and Simulink are used by a large and diverse customer base. As a result, we see firsthand how much modeling improves the likelihood of project-level success, especially as system complexity increases. 5G, radar, and electronic-warfare (EW) systems span multiple signal domains, so many technical disciplines must come together to design and field a system.

We see areas where the 5G community leverages phased-array antenna, RF, and signal-processing technology previously developed for aerospace and defense applications. We also see the convergence of applications in the form of multifunction RF apertures, where the system alternates between surveillance, communications, interference management, and even weather-related functions. With the availability of commercial software-defined radios and radars, the number of applications continues to grow rapidly. This means new communications and radar engineers enter the field and need to ramp up quickly.

Each of these trends adds complexity to new projects. Our goal with the blog series is to share examples and techniques where simulation can be applied to reduce risk. Hopefully, readers gain insights into the full signal chain at the early phases of development where they have the greatest flexibility to make the most intelligent design choices. They also can gain confidence in their design before they field it.

Can you tell us some of the ways that MathWorks supports the needs of both commercial wireless and aerospace/defense applications?

There’s a great mix of wireless and aerospace/defense engineers that use our platform products, MATLAB and Simulink, as the basis for simulation. We have continued to expand the number of focused tools that are application-specific. For example, in wireless, this includes products that are focused on 5G along with other standards-based wireless. In addition, we have built up specific tools that focus on each part of the system. This has also helped to bring large development teams together. For example, the RF and antenna engineers on a project can integrate with their signal-processing and system-level colleagues.

We also support smaller teams by enabling broader workflows. This could be where system engineers can get an idea of how changes in subsystems impact overall performance. It also can be helpful for engineers responsible for a specific subsystem to see how design choices impact other subsystems. We have connected workflows across the different technical disciplines, too. This helps downstream when systems are integrated.

The other good news is that with the advent of the multifunction RF aperture, technology cross-pollination across industries is accelerated. In addition, we continue to expand our modeling capabilities so that different levels of abstraction can be used depending on what’s needed during specific project phases. As projects mature, higher-fidelity capabilities can be applied when they make the most sense.

The 5G Toolbox was launched last year. What’s been the reception to that?

The reception has been very positive. It’s been great to see such a rapid adoption of a new product. It really speaks to the timeliness of having the 5G Toolbox so close to the standard approval.

We see two main areas of adoption: teams that want to ramp up on the standard quickly and teams that are already experts but need a framework to develop algorithms on. One very well received aspect of 5G Toolbox is that it’s all written in MATLAB. Anyone that has the toolbox also has the code for all of the algorithms and building blocks. This gives our customers great insight into all aspects of 5G.

You’ve spoken a great deal about hybrid beamforming. Why is this significant?

It’s been a popular topic from our customers. We receive a lot of requests to help with system modeling and more specifically system-level partitioning. It’s one of the areas in a large system where the disciplines meet. Antenna array meets RF chain meets signal processing. The results of making the right architectural choices in this area translate to lower system cost and at required performance levels. Even as systems evolve to fully digital beamforming, this is an area that continues to be of high interest.

In the early part of 2020, we will include several new blog posts on integrating higher-fidelity models for antenna elements and RF components, along with 5G waveforms.

Can you explain how MathWorks is diving deeper into RF and antenna modeling?

We have continued to expand our antenna and RF modeling to respond to customer requirements. This includes more complex antenna designs and structures. It also includes support for more RF analysis and architectures. Our RF and antenna element libraries continue to grow. It’s easy to solve for your own structures as well.

With our RF and antenna tools, we always try to help customers balance options for fidelity with simulation time. The other area we spend a lot of time thinking about is ease of use. This is helpful to seasoned veterans in the field, but it’s also great for others getting started or expanding their work focus. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, we ensure that the results of RF and antenna modeling can be directly integrated into system-level models.