An AM/FM/TV, for example, needs separate tuner circuitry for each frequency range. So-called software radios get around this limitation. They can be programmed to act as cell phones, walkie-talkies, televisions, AM/FM radios, cordless phones, garage-door openers, radar, short-wave radios, pagers, and GPS (global-positioning systems), to name a few.

To help with the effort, the Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group at Virginia Tech has developed a software tool dubbed OSSIE (Open-Source Software Communication Architecture Implementation: Embedded) and is offering it free of charge to other wireless-communications researchers worldwide. OSSIE is an operating environment, or software framework, written in C++ and compatible with Joint Tactical Radio System military hardware.

The U.S. Dept. of Defense years ago established the JTRS to create softwaredefined radios. MPRG first developed OSSIE as a research project sponsored by the Office of the Director of the CIA, but soon realized other researchers could use the technology. Users can download the open-source tool for free and, in turn, are responsible for sharing their findings for free with other researchers. "Software radio technology is today where personal computer technology was in the 1970s," says Max Robert, the MPRG postdoctoral Fellow who led the development of OSSIE.

Virginia Tech MPRG,
www.mprg.org/research/ossie