The new SmartSDR format, where the heavy lifting of DSP is done all in the radio and the computer has only “thin client” duties, has captured my imagination.
I’ve also been reading all sorts of (shadenfreunden) speculation about what the annual fees will be about in postings on the net.
The Signature Flex-6000 series radios are a hardware platform that will only slowly evolve as hardware – especially in comparison to the likely rapid and very noticeable SmartSDR software’s updates.
SmartSDR appears to have two main parts – the massive heavy duty part living inside the Flex-6000 and the light GUI & related services portion out on the thin client.
For discussion purposes as I speculate, I’d like to divide these into SmartSDR-6000 Software and SmartSDR-Client Software.
My guesses about the SmartSDR-6000 Software:
As this is the “machine” – the guts – that has evolved from FlexRadio’s experience in high capability radios for special markets, my guess is that this software is fairly well along in a basic form. Obviously the specific FPGA chip tweaks and oddities of amateur radio needs to be handled, but the “in the box software” capability is something FlexRadio has been successful with in these specialty markets.
This software could be expected to have various features “unlocked” from time-to-time as FlexRadio develops the software, gains approvals, and bluntly per a marketing plan.
To my lay person’s eyes the SCU (Spectral Capture Unit) onwards software architecture may be subject to continuous rounds of improvements.
This is the “guts software” that annual update subscription fees will provide an ongoing improvement every year. Basically the radio will keep improving itself over time with SmartSDR-6000 Software Updates.
My guesses about the SmartSDR-Client Software:
This is the frosting on the cake, and the part my impression is still a ways from ready for prime time.
I didn’t learn how this program is being codes, but thinking if I were in Flex-Radio’s shoes I would certainly not miss the opportunity to do multi-platform programing from the start.
Withe the SmartSDR-6000 Software doing all the hard work, and being very “managed by FlexRadio” there could be a chance of the SmartSDR-Client launching on more than Windows right from the start. Eyeing how every FlexRadio staff member appeared to have an Apple iPad an iOS/OSX SmartSDR-Client Software package is only a matter of time.
SmartSDR-Client has a role of acting as “the gatekeeper” for access to SmartSDR-6000 when third party programs would like to access the radio. This would appear to be at a couple of levels.
First would be the usual hooks for Loggers, Digital Mode Programs, and the usual Ham Auxiliary programs. Anticipate these hooks to be emulated close enough to keep legacy software happy. This level of access to classic CAT type hooks and audio streams should be open to anything the user wants to run. This software will include paid-for programs, donation-ware, shareware and freeware programs.
Second would be a new set of hooks for a SmartSDR-Client enhanced set of hooks for this same level of software. The same basics but enhanced and optimized to make the combined software show its best. Access to this level may require the third party software developer to become authorized by FlexRadio in some sort of Quality Control program. These programs most likely will be paid-for or trial-ware programs given the added developer costs.
Third level would be for third party software that deeply accesses SmartSDR-6000 directly. Complete alternate interfaces could happen here. To get this deep into the SmmartSDR-6000 Software expect the third party developer to be in a tightly monitored program, the programs to pass some sort of QC to be acceptable, the third party developer to need some sort of API key (perhaps several levels will be available) and perhaps each instance of the software needing a user level API key as well. Expect this level of third party software to have fees – perhaps large fees if custom work is done. The possibilities of what could be available at this level is profound!
Fouth level in theory could be direct access to the Series-6000 hardware and very deep into the SmartSDR-6000 Software. Think all the restrictions of the Third level with corporate level NDAs if any third party developer would ever be approved as a product partner.
Thoughts on SmartSDR Software Annual Update Fee:
FlexRadio announced that to receive annual updates to SmartSDR there would be a fee – initially set at $199/year.
To clarify they said over and over – there is NO obligation to pay an annual subscription – your radio software never “expires.”
The fee is if you want to receive Updates, period!
I’ve seen postings on various forums and blogs claiming if you don’t pay your annual fee that your new SmartSDR Flex-6000 series radio will stop working. FlexRadio assured everyone at the Dayton FlexRadio Dinner that the fee buys Upgrades and is NOT necessary to keep a radio running.
FlexRadio’s PowerSDR update process has appeared to be about quarterly, with extra releases when something changes in the bands or there is an important fix to get out.
If the SmartSDR update program is similar I can’t think of anything much more exciting than to have a major upgrade to an stunning new radio a couple times a year! Of course first year updates are included in the purchase cost and for early adopters their “Limited Edition” package includes a second year of update subscription prepaid.
My guesses about possible SmartSDR-6000 Add-In Software:
I am expecting that there could be some neat Add-In packages for the SmartSDR suite.
Some will be external network focused – perhaps private Flex-6000 Diversity-Clusters, private reverse-beacon networks, rent-a-slice-of-a-station software, club multi-user software, remote operator contesting software and advanced remote ability suites.
The internal network shack Add-Ins may include external mode interfaces, unattended operations (RX) software, advance monitoring suites and contesting enhancements.
Remoting enhancements to include your amp, rotor, antenna switches and more should be part of first add-ins.
Imagination becomes the boundary, rather than conventional hardware and the PC, with the Flex-6000 and SmartSDR.
Is making the Flex-6000 and SmartSDR a leap of faith? Perhaps no more than the leap made when tubes gave way to solid state rigs.
“Hello Tomorrow!” could be the tag-line for the Flex-6000/PowerSDR combination!