CTA Hopes to Make a Splash With New Open Radar API Standard Called Ripple

January 20, 2022 by Kristijan Nelkovski

A collaborative effort between the tech giants, Google and Texas Instruments, along with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and others, announced their new radar application programming interface (API) to develop radar-based technologies.

Radio Detection And Ranging, or radar for short, is one of the most widely used methods for detecting and tracking objects and analyzing their velocity and angle of movement. 

Radar works by sending out short bursts of electromagnetic waves and measuring the time it takes for these pulses to get reflected back when an object obstructs its path.

Primarily developed for military purposes during WWII, radar later found its use in multiple fields such as the aerospace and automotive industries, weather surveillance, vehicle (air, water, and land) navigation, and more novel areas currently being explored.


Example block diagrams for radar systems.

Example block diagrams for radar systems. Image used courtesy of Mouser Electronics and Freescale


This article focuses on the announcement of a new industry-backed standardized software and hardware platform for radar development called Ripple and some emerging innovations that implement radar into their technologies.


New Radar Technologies Breach More Areas

Lately, radar has been the subject matter of engineers to develop new products that base their object sensing capabilities on the principles of radio wave reflection. 

Typically small scale and embeddable, radar chip sensors are aimed towards consumer electronics from mobile devices such as wearables to larger devices such as cars and even whole networked systems such as automated factories.


An example of a radar chip from Bell Lab. Image used courtesy of Changzhi et al


Radar sensors can be used with gesture and movement detection devices as an input method in smartphones and computers. They can also be beneficial in the medical field in biosensing devices for non-invasive (and potentially not even wearable) wellness monitoring. 

On a smaller scale, radar can be used in medical lab work such as DNA or blood analysis.

The technology also finds applications in smart city design in more ways than one. 

Simple occupancy detection for buildings, parking garages, and public spaces could help monitor availability, control security, and even automate energy consumption to be more efficient based on real-time sensor data. 

City street radar sensing could also help ease congestion and make traffic safer and less time-consuming.

All in all, these emerging radar technologies have prompted engineers to design standardized APIs that would enable companies to streamline their development of radar-based systems. 

These systems might use different radar variants and have various applications but would ultimately rely on an already existing software platform focusing on building their products instead of creating proprietary software environments.

Despite the growth of radar technologies branching into even more applications, industry standards could help pave the way to even more inclusion and adaptation. 


Ripple: A Future Industry Standard for Radar Technology

Recently, the CTA announced its radar API in collaboration with tech giants such as Aptiv, Blumio, Ford, Google, Infineon, NXP Semiconductors, and Texas Instruments. 

Named Ripple, the purpose of this API is to become an industry-standard in radar development systems by enabling interoperability between different hardware and software solutions within the same environment.


Example applications of Ripple.

Example applications of Ripple. Screenshot used courtesy of CTA


Typically, when designing a product with embedded radar technology, engineers have to build their whole infrastructure from the ground up and develop custom solutions for each application. 

Depending on the application, different designs often include various types of sensors, components, transmitters, and codebases, leading to longer R&D times and longer periods between prototypes and end-user products. 

To fix this, the CTA-led group developed Ripple with fast innovation in mind aiming to benefit both the industries that use radar technologies and their consumers alike. 

The main target of Ripple is growing low-powered general-purpose radar ventures in multiple fields such as mobile devices, the medical field, the automotive field, and other innovative radar-based systems.

According to the proposed publication of the Ripple API from earlier last year, this platform primarily supports frequency modulated continuous wave radar and has built-in support for other types of radar. 


Example radar API from Google, which is rumored to be what Ripple is based on.

Example radar API from Google, which is rumored to be what Ripple is based on. Screenshot used courtesy of Google


This document states that the early version of the API is set to work with the C++ programming language with a plan for an ‘interface description language’ that could enable the development of radar solutions in any programming language using the Ripple API.

Ripple claims to help bring interoperable software libraries with standardized methods and calls between different radar technologies, devices, and control systems. 

As a standardized API, Ripple could help grow the ecosystem of radar technologies and offer developers a more accessible way to research their ideas and potentially base a business around them.


The Importance of Standardization

Standardization is an essential process that can be beneficial in our regular day-to-day lives, especially in the electronic and electrical engineering fields. 

First and foremost, standards help establish safety for the products that are used, as well as enable engineers to have interoperability, repeatability, and compatibility between their designs.

From an economic standpoint, large companies, like the tech giants that worked with the CTA, invest in standardization for these reasons allowing them to collaborate with other entities, have a strong presence on the market, have shorter research and development times, and ensure higher product quality for their consumers.

All in all, Ripple comes up as one of these standards that could give many companies, and more importantly, startups, the opportunity to innovate in an emerging field with fewer barriers for entry and more space to develop better products. 

The Ripple standard would also make it easier for researchers and universities to improve the API. Researchers could experiment and incorporate their integrated circuits, sensors, and software libraries and potentially extend Ripple further with each project and research created using its software.

Backed by many large companies, such as Google, which has the largest internet presence and the largest mobile OS market share (with android), and Ford (one of the largest car manufacturers in the world), this standard could become more prevalent in everyday use.  

It could also potentially be on par with other well-known standards regularly used like near-field communication (NFC) or Wi-Fi.