• How I Wrote My Thesis

    I wrote the article below just after I had submitted the softbound copy of my thesis for examination back in 2017. It is more of a summary and overview of the tools that I used, and the approach I took with the writing. It may have some useful links to tools for other writers, but the approach is just what worked for me in the end. I highly recommend the book “The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations and Books”, 1999 by Eviatab Zerubavel. I could have done with following it closer in terms of time management, but the approach of writing the whole thesis as one piece of work ensured that the narrative and writing style flowed consistently throughout.

  • Spread-Spectrum Techniques for Bio-Friendly Underwater Acoustic Communications

    Abstract: Purpose/Objective: This work investigates techniques to mitigate the impact of acoustic communication signals on marine life, by minimising source level (SL) and designing waveforms with characteristics proven to reduce animal discomfort in bioacoustics studies. Methods: High-ratio spread spectrum transmission is employed with bandwidth-time products exceeding 1000. Signalling is based on families of near orthogonal pseudo-noise waveforms, generated by bandpass filtering of binary M-sequences. This enables reception of data, at very low SNR, over a radius many times greater than the radius of discomfort experienced by marine mammals. Computationally efficient receivers with novel synchronisation structures needed to be developed to operate at very low SNR and with severe Doppler effects. Results: Simulations show the proposed scheme is able to achieve 45 bit/s at –18dB SNR and 140 bit/s at –12dB SNR. Experimental system performance was assessed during realistic experiments in the North Sea, verifying performance over ranges up to 10km with transmitted SL of <170dB re 1 μPa @ 1m and with Doppler effects induced by relative motion exceeding 2m/s. Conclusion: The system developed compares favourably, in terms of SNR performance and channel utilisation, with previously reported work aimed at covert communication but offers reduced transmitter/receiver complexity and discomfort to animals. Significance: The work offers a way forward to more bio-friendly acoustic modem devices for operation in regions with sensitive fauna and/or increasingly strict environmental controls.

  • Thesis: Spread-Spectrum Techniques for Environmentally-Friendly Underwater Acoustic Communications

    Abstract: Anthropogenic underwater noise has been shown to have a negative impact on marine life. Acoustic data transmissions have also been shown to cause behavioural responses in marine mammals. A promising approach to address these issues is through reducing the power of acoustic data transmissions. Firstly, limiting the maximum acoustic transmit power to a safe limit that causes no injury, and secondly, reducing the radius of the discomfort zone whilst maximising the receivable range. The discomfort zone is dependent on the signal design as well as the signal power. To achieve these aims requires a signal and receiver design capable of synchronisation and data reception at low-received-SNR, down to around −15 dB, with Doppler effects. These requirements lead to very high-ratio spread-spectrum signaling with efficient modulation to maximise data rate, which necessitates effective Doppler correction in the receiver structure. This thesis examines the state-of-the-art in this area and investigates the design, development and implementation of a suitable signal and receiver structure, with experimental validation in a variety of real-world channels. Data signals are designed around m-ary orthogonal signaling based on bandlimited carrierless PN sequences to create an M-ary Orthogonal Code Keying (M-OCK) modulation scheme. Synchronisation signal structures combining the energy of multiple unique PN symbols are shown to outperform single PN sequences of the same bandwidth and duration in channels with low SNR and significant Doppler effects. Signals and receiver structures are shown to be capable of reliable communications with band of 8 kHz to 16 kHz and transmit power limited to less than 170.8 dB re 1 μPa @ 1m, or 1W of acoustic power, over ranges of 10 km in sea trials, with low-received-SNR below −10 dB, at data rates of up to 140.69 bit/s. Channel recordings with AWGN demonstrated limits of signal and receiver performance of BER 10−3 at −14 dB for 35.63 bit/s, and −8.5 dB for 106.92 bit/s. Piloted study of multipath exploitation showed this performance could be improved to −10.5 dB for 106.92 bit/s by combining the energy of two arrival paths. Doppler compensation techniques are explored with experimental validation showing synchronisation and data demodulation at velocities over ranges of ±2.7m/s. Non-binary low density parity check (LDPC) error correction coding with M-OCK signals is investigated showing improved performance over Reed-Solomon (RS) coding of equivalent code rate in simulations and experiments in real underwater channels. The receiver structures are implemented on an Android mobile device with experiments showing live real-time synchronisation and data demodulation of signals transmitted through an underwater channel.

  • Implementation of a Spread-Spectrum Acoustic Modem on an Android Mobile Device

    Abstract: Underwater acoustic modems can be expensive and inflexible. Software-defined underwater modems provide flexibility to modify the protocols and modulation schemes. The motivation of this research is towards producing minimal cost, low-power systems. The focus in this paper being the concept of a surface receiver consisting of a hydrophone plugged into a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet. Applications could be where data or diagnostics are required from a distributed network of underwater sensors in the field that incorporate an integrated acoustic modem. Spread-spectrum signals with large bandwidth-time products are considered including binary orthogonal keying (BOK) using linear frequency modulated (LFM) chirps (Chirp-BOK) and pseudorandom noise m-ary orthogonal code keying (PN M-OCK). Bandwidth of 8 kHz to 16 kHz is utilised for simulated performance of the modulation schemes. The modulation schemes target low-power, low-received-SNR applications with rates between 23.4 bit/s and 375.7 bit/s, targeting a BER of 10-4 at received-SNR of -14 dB to -6 dB respectively. A receiver structure design is implemented on an Android mobile device with experimental validation carried out in a marina over a 100m range. The receiver application was able to successfully demodulate, error-free, all packets received in real-time with received SNR of 34 dB. The receiver modulation scheme was user-selectable at run-time. Recordings from the marina trials were combined with AWGN for varying SNR. These were played into the mobile device for real-time demodulation and showed the mobile device and receiver application produced the target BER of 10-4 for SNRs of -12 dB to 0 dB for the rates 23.4 bit/s and 375.7 bit/s respectively.

  • M-OCK Example

    A short example MATLAB script for producing a M-OCK signal followed by a simplistic decoder. Assumes perfect synchronisation.