PicoScenes: CSI-based Wi-Fi Sensing Research, Supercharged!

PicoScenes is a versatile and powerful middleware for CSI-based Wi-Fi sensing research. It helps researchers overcome two key barriers of modern Wi-Fi sensing research: inadequate sensing hardware and incapable measurement software.

In the hardware aspect:

PicoScenes supports the most models of CSI-extractable frontend hardware, including three commercial Wi-Fi NIC models and software-defined radio (SDR), including the Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 (AX200), Qualcomm Atheros AR9300 (QCA9300), Intel Wireless Link 5300 (IWL5300) and all models of the USRP-based SDR devices.

  • Based on the AX200 NIC, PicoScenes is the first and currently the only public-available platform that enables CSI extraction for the 802.11ax-format frames using the commodity Wi-Fi hardware. The platform supports CSI extraction for all formats (802.11a/g/n/ac/ax) and all bandwidths (20/40/80/160 MHz). Besides that, PicoScenes also enables the CSI measurement for overheard frames in monitor mode, which transforms all the surrounding Wi-Fi devices into the signal sources of your sensing application.

  • For the QCA9300 NIC, PicoScenes unlocks the arbitrary tuning for both the carrier frequency and baseband sampling rate (a total of 2.4 GHz spectrum available and 2.5 to 80 MHz bandwidth), and the manual Rx gain control (0 to 66 dB). The platform also features the QCA9300->IWL5300 CSI measurement, the Tx/Rx radio-chain control and transmission of the extra spatial sounding LTFs (HT-ELTFs).

  • For SDR, PicoScenes integrates a high-performance C++ baseband implementation for 802.11a/g/n/ac/ax protocols. It has four major highlights: protocol support, PHY-layer control, performance and virtual SDR.

    • PicoScenes Wi-Fi baseband implementation covers almost all the advanced technical features, including the LDPC and BCC codecs, MCS 0~11 modulation, 20 to 160 MHz channel bandwidth (CBW) formats, up to 4x4 MIMO and even the 802.11ac/ax multi-user (MU) mode.

    • PicoScenes grants users full control over the PHY-layer parameters, such as the manual specification for the carrier frequency offset (CFO), sampling frequency offset (SFO), symbol timing offset (STO), I/Q mismatching and many OFDM encoding/decoding settings.

    • PicoScenes sets a series of performance records for SDR, such as up to 1 kHz CSI measurement at a 20 MHz bandwidth, up to 4 kHz and up to 40 kHz insanely fast packet injection rates in real-time and signal-replay modes, respectively.

    • PicoScenes features a handy Virtual SDR mode, which provides users a convenient way to generate, manipulate and test decoding the Wi-Fi baseband signals without connecting to an actual SDR device.

In the software aspect:

PicoScenes is far beyond a simple CSI data logger but a versatile Wi-Fi sensing platform. As far as we know, It is the first and currently the only platform that supports multi-NIC concurrent CSI measurement, which significantly simplifies the array-based CSI measurement. Besides that, it also features the live CSI plot, various low-level controls, and the **all-format and all-bandwidth packet injection **, which promises a fixed-rate CSI measurement.

As a Wi-Fi sensing middleware, PicoScenes encapsulates the per-NIC low-level hardware controls into a set of unified APIs and exposes them to the upper-level plugin layer. Through the PicoScenes plugin mechanism, complex and interactive CSI measurement tasks can be easily prototyped in a mission-focus manner. We demonstrate this advantage by EchoProbe, a PicoScenes plugin, which provides ms-grade round-trip CSI measurement, large spectrum scanning and the most basic CSI data logging capabilities.

PicoScenes MATLAB Toolbox (PMT) is the MATLAB parsing routine for the .csi file generated by the PicoScenes. The parsing can be as easy as just dragging the .csi files into MATLAB. The fundamental data structure is in versioned-segment format, which guarantees forward compatibility across the future upgrade.

The PicoScenes software ecosystem (customized driver, platform, and plugins) is built against the latest kernel, packaged in the Debian .deb format, and auto-updated via the easy apt upgrade command. A fresh-new installation can be as short as 5 minutes. Setting up a CSI-measurement environment never can be such easy!

You may refer to Why Use PicoScenes to learn more about PicoScenes. We hope you enjoy the next ride of Wi-Fi sensing research, supercharged by PicoScenes!


  • Oct. 24, 2021 Add all-format/all-bandwidth packet injection for AX200

  • Oct. 16, 2021 Add AX200 usage in CSI Measurement using PicoScenes page.

  • Oct. 10, 2021 Add Supported Hardware page.

  • Oct. 4, 2021 Add versioning and auto-update for PicoScenes MATLAB Toolbox.

  • Oct. 3, 2021 Announcing the AX200 support officially!

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