Software-Defined Underwater Acoustic Modems: Historical Review and the NILUS Approach
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Flexible/adaptive acoustic modems that are reprogrammable/reconfigurable at all layers of the communication stack, either by a user or by means of autonomous decisions, are considered as an important enabler for interoperability and cognitive networking in the underwater domain. In this paper, we review the existing literature on software-defined acoustic modems (SDAMs) for underwater communications and networking, considering past and ongoing academic efforts, as well as industrial developments and European collaborations centered on software-defined modem structures and functionalities. We then zoom in on relevant R&D efforts currently taking place in a defense cooperation between The Netherlands and Norway, targeting the design of a software-defined modem for the NILUS MK 2 sensor node. This modem is built using general-purpose (GP) computing architectures running open-source operating system and tools, thereby making a further step toward software-defined open-architecture underwater acoustic modems. The first field tests of the NILUS MK 2 node in multihop underwater acoustic networks are presented, showing satisfactory performance in shallow and open waters.