Communications Engineering

For more than 40 years, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has served the communications needs of industry, military, and regulatory agencies. SwRI's success is based on a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to problem solving that continually produces innovations in the presence of evolving technologies and market forces.

The Institute is ideally suited to providing optimum solutions to a wide range of communication-related problems. Typically, the most cost-effective solution is achieved with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment. If COTS solutions alone fail to meet client requirements, SwRI provides a seamless integration using custom interfaces, software, and packaging. For highly specialized needs, SwRI develops full-custom solutions. Experienced engineers address communication needs in: 

  • Network design and implementation 

  • Telecommunication systems engineering 

  • Wireless design and development 

  • Electromagnetic analysis and design 

Network Design and Implementation

SwRI provides system solutions for networking applications, including hardware and software development. Institute engineers merge diverse communication technologies into hybrid networks to support a variety of system requirements. To meet these needs, SwRI offers a wide range of services, including: 

  • System planning 

  • Network mapping and performance analysis 

  • Network security 

  • Component selection 

  • Custom equipment and software development 

  • System deployment and management

The Institute uses advanced equipment and sophisticated network communications laboratories to develop network designs and build prototypes. Engineers rapidly implement hybrid network designs and introduce real-world effects into systems using channel simulators. Recent projects have emphasized video distribution, network security, and wireless networking.

SwRI engineers quickly develop prototype devices to validate new designs. Using specialized laboratory equipment, an Institute engineer tests a custom network security device.

Telecommunication Systems Engineering

Institute engineers improve existing telecommunication systems, develop replacement equipment, and design custom systems based on client needs. SwRI has expertise in a broad range of communication technologies, including: 

  • Digital signal processing 

  • Microprocessors and microcontrollers 

  • Speech and image compression 

  • Speaker-independent keyword recognition 

  • Time-division multiplexing 

  • Multivendor integration protocol 

  • Public Switched Telephone Network T-1 communications 

  • Audio digitization and mass storage 

  • Voice Over Internet Protocol 

  • Electronic packaging 

  • Field-programmable gate arrays

SwRI has recently developed custom telecommunication systems that provide capabilities such as: 

  • Telecommunication monitoring of:

    • Conventional telephone service

    • Digital and hybrid systems

    • T-1 trunk systems 

  • Facsimile intercept and decode 

  • Call traffic analysis 

  • Cellular data communications 

  • Wide-area data collection 

SwRI provides production support for moderate-quantity manufacturing of Institute-developed systems. This multiprocessor circuit card uses a modular design to permit future upgrades and to simplify troubleshooting and repair.

Wireless Design and Development

Using emerging radiofrequency (RF) technology, SwRI develops innovative techniques, equipment, and software to meet rapidly changing wireless communication requirements. In supporting a wide variety of wireless and electromagnetic technologies, Institute communication engineers offer consulting, design, and developmental services that include: 

  • Low frequency through microwave design 

  • Short- and long-range link design 

  • Analog and digital design 

  • Surface-mount design and assembly 

  • Circuit card development

SwRI has field, laboratory, and analysis experience in a variety of wireless technologies, including: 

  • Radio 

  • Cellular telephony 

  • Television 

  • Satellite communications 

  • Paging devices 

  • Spread spectrum systems 

  • Jamming equipment 

  • Low-probability intercept and detection 

  • Chaos-based communications

SwRI developed this satellite communications-based remote incident monitoring system to provide response coordination and remote surveillance of natural and man-made disasters in rural areas.

The SwRI-developed LifeLinkô system provides mobile video conferencing between ambulance technicians and emergency room trauma physicians. The system also transmits the patient's vital statistics to the physicians.

Electromagnetic Analysis and Design

Electromagnetic technology is the basis for numerous applications, including communications, search radar, and material heating. With more than 40 years of experience in designing electromagnetic systems, the Institute supports numerous electromagnetic applications, including: 

  • Antennas 

  • Radar 

  • Modulation techniques 

  • Propagation through materials 

  • Electronic warfare 

  • High-power electromagnetic transmission 

  • Directed energy 

  • Identification Friend or Foe 

  • Navigation 

  • Direction finding 

  • Electromagnetic compatibility testing

Experienced in antenna design, engineers develop high-performance speciality antennas such as this highly accurate submarine direction-finding antenna. This production antenna, shown with the radome removed, is 20 inches in diameter and 32 inches in height.

Facilities and Instrumentation

SwRI state-of-the-art laboratories are equipped with specialized instrumentation for developing communication systems. Using this equipment, Institute engineers provide: 

  • Telecommunications system development 

  • Network research and development 

  • High-power electromagnetic system engineering 

  • Electronic design and prototyping 

  • Electromagnetic compatibility test and evaluation

In addition to EMC testing, SwRI offers a full range of environmental testing, including: 

  • Temperature and humidity 

  • Pressure 

  • Shock and vibration 

  • Electrostatic discharge 

  • Corrosive atmosphere 

  • Acoustic emissions 

  • Electrical safety 

  • Fire testing 

  • Gaseous environment

SwRI's EMC facilities include eight galvanealed shielded enclosures, the largest of which can accommodate full-size passenger vehicles. 

Development Process

The Institute has developed a proven methodology to design and build innovative communication systems. A key component of this methodology is the definition phase, which includes: 

  • Defining the system's purpose 

  • Identifying and describing each task to be performed by the system 

  • Determining sequence of operations necessary to perform each task 

  • Identifying system components 

  • Determining system-to-system interfaces 

  • Defining user-friendly operator interfaces 

  • Performing system failure analysis and establishing fault tolerances 

  • Establishing system test methods and self-diagnostic capabilities 

    Developing environmental specifications

Web Site:

This brochure was published in July 2000. For more information about communications engineering, contact Ryan Lamm, Director, Phone (210) 522-5350, Fax (210) 522-2477, Communications and Embedded Systems Department, Automation and Data Systems Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.

Automation and Data Systems Division Brochures
SwRI Brochures separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Publications separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Home