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CHIPS Articles: The Spectrum Collaboration Challenge: Let the Games Begin!

The Spectrum Collaboration Challenge: Let the Games Begin!
DARPA selects 30 teams for Phase 1 of a $3.75 million competition designed to greatly expand the amount of radio traffic that the electromagnetic spectrum can accommodate
By DARPA News - January 31, 2017
Unveiled in March 2016, DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge has reached an early milestone by choosing 30 contenders for the first of the three-phase competition, slated to culminate at the end of 2019 with a live match of finalists who have survived the two preliminary contests. In addition to 22 teams from academia and small and large companies, eight individuals have made it into the competition.

The Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) aims to ensure that the exponentially growing number of military and civilian wireless devices will have full access to the increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum. Competitors will reimagine spectrum access strategies and develop a new wireless paradigm in which radio networks will autonomously collaborate and reason about how to share the RF spectrum, avoid interference and jointly exploit opportunities to achieve the most efficient use of the available spectrum.

SC2 teams will develop these breakthrough capabilities by taking advantage of recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and the expanding capacities of software-defined radios. Ultimately, this competition aims not only to challenge innovators in academia and business to produce breakthroughs in collaborative AI, but also to catalyze a new spectrum paradigm that can help usher in an era of spectrum abundance.

Six of the chosen teams for the first preliminary competition earned their slots in the “Proposal Track,” which includes $500,000 of contract funding. Twenty-four teams, including all of the individual contenders, are participating by way of the “Open Track,” which means they had to pass technical hurdles specified by SC2 organizers but will pay their own costs. A total of 113 candidates vied for a spot via the Open Track option.

“SC2 sets out to bring the software defined radio and artificial intelligence communities together to fundamentally rethink 100 years of spectrum practice, and tackle the original and enduring spectrum grand challenge: efficient coexistence of all wireless communications,” said Paul Tilghman, a program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office and administrator of the Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. "I'm excited to see these two communities combine their efforts to take on such an important problem. The teams participating in phase 1 are all well-poised to see this vision through to fruition.”

All 30 of the chosen teams now will have to meet several requirements throughout the year to prepare for the Preliminary Event #1 Competition this December. A still-to-be specified number of top-performing teams in this first phase of the competition will receive $750,000 and will automatically proceed to the second phase of SC2, which will end with another similarly run preliminary competition in December 2018.

The finale will take place at the end of 2019 with prizes of $2 million, $1 million, and $750 thousand going to the top three finishers, respectively.

For information about the teams and the competition, visit the SC2 web site:

DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge banner
DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge banner
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