June 17-21, 2024 – DIFI PlugFest 2024 Europe

UK Satellite Applications Catapult’s Harwell Campus was the site of the second DIFI PlugFest.  Monday through Thursday morning was a chance for companies to test their equipment for interoperability with that of other members.  Only DIFI-member companies with equipment to test were able to participate in these high-intensity working meetings.  On Thursday, however, the PlugFest offered an industry session open to all DIFI members, followed by a Showcase open to members and non-members alike.

Plug & Play Digital IF. We’re Getting There


A group of people working on laptops and configuring server racks in a technology lab setting.

DIFI held its second PlugFest last week and our first in Europe at Satellite Applications Catapult’s Harwell campus in the U.K.

For those not familiar with the nitty gritty of standards development, a PlugFest is an event to validate the effectiveness of a technology standard by testing how well devices from different manufacturers interoperate. Standards bodies like DIFI hold PlugFests periodically, especially when a new rev of the standard has been released. For DIFI, that’s DIFI 1.2 introduced last September. Members congregated at PlugFest Europe to test compatibility with that release as well as version 1.1 functions.

Nine equipment makers, including ARKAEvertzETL SystemsKeysightKratosLasting SoftwareSafranST Engineering and Welkin Sciences, submitted for testing an assortment of modems, digitizers, simulators, and testing equipment. Some 178 test cases were executed with 93% of tests at least partially compliant and 75% fully compliant. Makers can take the results back to their labs to tweak the—mostly minor—aspects that did not fully comply. That’s one of the two biggest reasons why PlugFests are held.

The other reason is to help mature the standard. In this event we tested all the submitted products together simultaneously as well as independently. Interestingly, we found that participants addressed one specific area of version 1.2 differently. The solutions worked, but not optimally. This is the real value of the Plugfest for DIFI, since now the Standard Working Group can go back and address any ambiguity in the spec that led to that situation.

The PlugFest helped us tremendously in maturing the DIFI standard and advancing interoperable digital ground systems. I want to lead a round of applause to all who helped organize the event, especially to ETL’s Simon Swift who chairs our DIFI Specification Working Group for his team’s hard work. I also want to thank Dr. Ilias Panagiotopoulos from the European Space Agency’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) for his keynote address to members, and Harvinder Nagi, Senior Systems Architect-Future Networks, at the UK Space Applications Catapult for chairing our panel session.