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Serial Interface

The modem utilizes either a 3V3 UART or RS485 for interfacing. Users can operate the modem in different modes, configure communication channels, and retrieve diagnostic data via this serial interface. A half-duplex serial communication protocol, encompassing the following configuration, is implemented by the modem:

  • Baud rate: 9600 bps
  • Data bits: 8 bits per transfer
  • Stop bits: 1 stop bit
  • Parity: None

Operational Modes

The modem provides two operational modes: transparent serial mode and diagnostic mode.

In transparent serial mode, the modem processes two bytes of data per transmission. Upon receipt of a packet, it transmits two bytes of received data using the chosen serial protocol (OEM, Standard or Extended). Each transmission lasts approximately 1.6 seconds, as determined by the acoustic wave duration. The lack of TX buffering implies that attempting to input more than 2-bytes of data during a single transmission will lead to irretrievable packet loss, e.g. if four bytes of data are sent, only the first two bytes will be transmitted, and the remaining two bytes will be discarded.

In contrast, diagnostic mode offers an in-depth report over the chosen serial communication, containing:

  • A Transport Block (TB) that holds received data (16-bit).
  • Bit Error Rate (BER, 8-bit).
  • Signal Power (8-bit).
  • Noise Power (8-bit).
  • Packet Valid status indicating a successful LDPC decoder and CRC operation (16-bit).
  • Packet Invalid status showing an unsuccessful CRC check despite LDPC decoding (8-bit).
  • Firmware revision, represented as a Git commit hash (8-bit).
  • Time since power-up, measured in 10 ms increments (24-bit).
  • FPGA chip id (16-bit).
  • Hardware revision (2-bit).
  • Communication channel (1-12, 4-bit).
  • TB Valid status to verify if the first TB is new (1-bit).
  • TX-complete status to confirm a completed transmission (1-bit).

A diagnostic report is triggered under the following conditions:

  1. Receipt of a new packet, setting the TB Valid bit to ‘1’.
  2. Completion of a transmission, setting the TX Complete bit to ‘1’.
  3. After 4 seconds have passed since the last report was dispatched.

To optimize packet transmission and identify the receipt of new data, the TX-complete and TB Valid bits can be utilized while interpreting the report. Like in transparent serial mode, the modem in diagnostic mode also lacks TX buffering, therefore, accepting only 2-bytes of data for each transmission and discarding the remaining data.

Reports can also be requested in the transparent serial mode, with further details provided in subsequent sections.

Quickstart guide

By default, each modem is preprogrammed to operate in the transparent serial mode and communicate on channel 1. For a quick setup with two modems, simply connect the modems and initiate communication.

Settings interface

Users can access or modify three parameters in the modem:

  1. Communication channels.
  2. Operation mode.
  3. Report request.

The procedure for accessing these parameters is detailed in the following sections.

Communication channel command

The modem offers 12 communication channels. Two modems can only interact if they operate on the same channel. To set the channel, users must send two "c" characters through the serial interface, separated by a one-second interval. Following the transmission of both characters, users can choose the desired channel by transmitting a single character ranging from 1 to c within 2 seconds.

The table below provides an overview of the available channels:

Channel Character HEX-Value
1 "1" 0x31
2 "2" 0x32
3 "3" 0x33
4 "4" 0x34
5 "5" 0x35
6 "6" 0x36
7 "7" 0x37
8 "8" 0x38
9 "9" 0x39
10 "a" 0x61
11 "b" 0x62
12 "c" 0x63

For instance, to configure the modem to communicate on channel 11 via the UART interface, follow these steps:

  1. Transmit a single "c" (0x63) character over UART.
  2. Allow a one-second interval to pass.
  3. Send another "c" (0x63) character over UART.
  4. Wait for less than 2 seconds / transmit immediately.
  5. Send a single "b" (0x62) character.

Setting operational mode command

To toggle between the diagnostic mode and transparent serial mode, users are required to send two "m" characters with a one-second interval between them.

Request report command

In both diagnostic and transparent serial modes, a report request can be initiated at any time by transmitting two "r" characters spaced one second apart. Following this request, the modem will generate the required report.

Packet structure of report

The structure of a report is as follows:

Byte (bit) Field Description
0 (0:7) START_OF_FRAME (SOF) “$”
1:2 (0:15) TB Transport block containing received data.
3 (0:7) BER Bit error rate
4 (0:7) SIGNAL_POWER Relative Signal Power
5 (0:7) NOISE_POWER Relative Noise Power
6:7 (0:15) PACKET_VALID Packet valid, CRC successful
8 (0:7) PACKET_INVALID Packet invalid, CRC failed
9 (0:7) GIT_REV Firmware revision
10:12 (0:23) TIME_FROM_BOOT Time since power up / boot in 10 ms (1 = 10 ms, 2 = 20 ms, etc.)
13:14 (0:15) CHIP_ID FPGA chip id
15 (0:1) HW_REV Hardware revision
15 (2:5) CHANNEL Communication channel (1-12)
15 (6) TB_VALID Transport block valid, used to determine if the transport block in byte 1:2 is new
15 (7) TX_COMPLETE Used to inform that a transmission is complete
16 (0:7) RESERVED Reserved
17 (0:7) END_OF_FRAME (EOF) New line (“\n”)

As previously mentioned, in diagnostic mode, reports are dispatched at 4-second intervals or when new data is transmitted or received. The following Python code is an example of a report parser:

def decode_packet(packet: bytes) -> Optional[Dict[str, Any]]:
   Decode a packet received from the modem.

   packet : bytes
       The raw packet received from the modem. The packet should be 18 bytes long and start with
        '$' (0x24) and end with '\n' (0x0A).

   Optional[Dict[str, Any]]
       A dictionary with decoded values if the packet is valid, None otherwise.

   if len(packet) != 18 or packet[0] != '$' or packet[-1] != '\n':
       return None

   # The 128-bit data excluding the SOF and EOF characters
   data = packet[1:17]

   decoded = struct.unpack("<HBBBHBBBBBHBB", data)

   decoded_dict = {
       "TR_BLOCK": decoded[0],
       "BER": decoded[1],
       "SIGNAL_POWER": decoded[2],
       "NOISE_POWER": decoded[3],
       "PACKET_VALID": decoded[4],
       "PACKET_INVALID": decoded[5],
       "GIT_REV": decoded[6],
       "TIME": (decoded[9] << 16) | (decoded[8] << 8) | decoded[7],
       "CHIP_ID": decoded[10],
       "HW_REV": (decoded[11] & 0b00000011),
       "CHANNEL": (decoded[11] & 0b00111100) >> 2,
       "TB_VALID": (decoded[11] & 0b01000000) >> 6,
       "TX_COMPLETE": (decoded[11] & 0b10000000) >> 7,
       "Unused": decoded[12],

   return decoded_dict

Ensuring successful transmission and optimising

In the diagnostic mode, a report is transmitted immediately after the completion of a transmission. To optimise the transmission baud rate, users can buffer data and transmit two bytes whenever a high TX-complete bit is received. This method guarantees efficient and continuous data transmission. In the transparent serial mode, successful transmission is ensured by sending two bytes and waiting for more than 1.6 seconds before transmitting the next two bytes.

Flash memory considerations

Setting modem mode and channel results in a flash write operation. Thus ensure that the modem is not powered off during this operation. The modem will not respond to any commands during this time. The flash write operation takes approximately 1 second to complete.