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Eliminating the Barriers: Demystifying Wi-Fi Baseband Design and Introducing the PicoScenes Wi-Fi Sensing Platform

by   Zhiping Jiang, et al.

Research on Wi-Fi sensing over the past decade has been thriving, but not smooth. Three major barriers severely hamper the research, namely, the unknown baseband design and its influence on CSI, inability to access the low-level hardware controls and the lack of a flexible and versatile software toolkit for hardware control. This paper tries to break the above three barriers from the following aspects. First, an in-depth study on the baseband design of QCA9300, the popular CSI-enabled Wi-Fi NIC, is presented. The lessons learned is of great guiding significance for understanding what other commercial off-the-shelf NICs. Second, several valuable features of QCA9300 are unlocked for research, such as the arbitrary tuning for both the carrier frequency and baseband sampling rate. By leveraging the unlocked features, we identify three important types of CSI distortion, and pinpoint their origin through extensive evaluations. Last, we develop and release PicoScenes, a powerful, hardware-unified and extensible Wi-Fi sensing system. PicoScenes allows direct access to the unlocked features of QCA9300 and IWL5300, and therefore greatly facilitate the research on Wi-Fi sensing. It also supports the SDR-based Wi-Fi sensing by embedding a 802.11a/g/n/ac/ax software baseband implementation. We release PicoScenes at


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