Michael Ossmann Makes You an RF Design Hero

To a lot of people, radio-frequency (RF) design is black magic. Even if you’ve built a number of RF projects, and worked your way through the low-lying gotchas, you’ve probably still got a healthy respect for the gremlins lying in wait around every dimly-lit corner. Well, [Michael Ossmann] gave a super workshop at the Hackaday Superconference to give you a guided tour of the better-illuminated spaces in RF design.

five_rules[Michael] is a hacker-designer, and his insights into RF circuit design are hard-won, by making stuff. The HackRF One is probably his most famous (and complex) project, but he’s also designed and built a number of simpler RF devices. And the main point of his talk is that there’s a large range of interesting projects that are possible without getting yourself into the fringes of RF design (which require expensive test equipment, serious modelling, or a Ph.D. in electro-wavey-things).

You should watch [Mike]’s workshop which is embedded below. That said, here’s the spoilers. [Mike] suggests five rules that’ll keep your RF design on the green, rather than off in the rough.

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Radio Receiver Build Log and More

At Hackaday, we like to see build logs, and over on Hackaday.io, you can find plenty of them. Sometimes, though, a builder really outdoes themselves with a lot of great detail on a project, and [N6QW’s] Simple-Ceiver project certainly falls into that category. The project logs document many different stages of completeness, and we linked the first one for you as a starting point, but you’ll definitely want to read up to the present. (There were 16 parts, some spanning multiple posts, last time we checked).

It is definitely worth the effort though. The project started out as a direct conversion receiver, but the design goes through and converts it into a superheterodyne receiver. Along the way, [N6QW] shares construction techniques, design advice, and even simulation plots (backed up with actual scope measurements). The local oscillator, of course, uses an Arduino and an AD9850 synthesizer.

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Android and Arduino RF Outlet Selector


Cyber Monday may be behind us, but there are always some hackable, inexpensive electronics to be had. [Stephen’s] wireless Android/Arduino outlet hack may be the perfect holiday project on the cheap, especially considering you can once again snag the right remote controlled outlets from Home Depot. This project is similar to other remote control outlet builds we’ve seen here, but for around $6 per outlet: a tough price to beat.

[Stephen] Frankenstein’d an inexpensive RF device from Amazon into his build, hooking the Arduino up to the 4 pins on the transmitter. The first step was to reverse engineer the communication for the outlet, which was accomplished through some down and dirty Arduino logic analyzing. The final circuit included a standard Arduino Ethernet shield, which [Stephen] hooked up to his router and configured to run as a web server. Most of the code was borrowed from the RC-Switch outlet project, but the protocols from that build are based on US standards and did not quite fit [Stephen’s] needs, so he turned to a similar Instructables project to work out the finer details.

Stick around after the break for a quick video demonstration, then check out another wireless outlet hack for inspiration.

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RF switching module can learn new remotes


This breadboarded circuit is [Sergio’s] solution to controlling appliances wirelessly. Specifically he wanted a way to turn his pool pump on and off from inside the house. Since he had most of the parts on hand he decided to build a solution himself. What he ended up with is an RF base station that can learn to take commands from different remote devices.

The main components include the solid state relay at the bottom of the image. This lets the ATtiny13 switch mains voltage appliances. The microcontroller (on the copper clad square at the center of the breadboard) interfaces with the green radio frequency board to its left. On the right is a single leaf switch. This acts as the input. A quick click will toggle the relay, but a three-second press puts the device in learning mode. [Sergio] can then press a button on an RF remote and the device will store the received code in EEPROM. As you can see in the clip after the break, he even included a way to forget a remote code.

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Data confirmation with RF communications

[Rafael] built a system that uses radio frequency for communications. The code he was using with the inexpensive receiver/transmitter pairs already had some error correction but from time to time an entire message would be missed by the receiver. He set out to make these RF communications more robust.

A little more than a year ago we looked at using these same transmitters with an Arduino. [Rafael] has a similar setup but since they are unidirectional he chose to use two pairs for bidirectional communication (each operating at a different frequency to avoid interference). On one end, a computer transmits data to the Arduino which is in a remote location. His confirmation protocol relies on a randomly generated message identifier. The computer will continually transmit the same message. The Arduino continually receives these messages, comparing them with the last successfully received message. If they match, it is considered a successful data transfer and the Arduino transmits a confirmation back to the computer which then starts transmitting the next message.

This isn’t an application-specific protocol. For demonstration purposes [Rafael] built a quick home automation setup that uses it to operate a house lamp.