Touchstone software turns data collected from RF Explorer spectrum analyzers into highly graphical charts and displays, enabling users to more readily visualize the RF environment, monitor RF signals, troubleshoot RF issues, and detect sources of RF interference.
Nuts About Nets has created two different variations of the software -- standard and professional. The standard version is free and the professional version is only $49 USD. The table below summarizes their differences:
For evaluation purposes feel free to download the software applications. Without the RF Explorer device the software runs in a fully functional 'Demo mode' using simulated data.
In addition to running as a standalone, handheld device, RF Explorer can be connected to a PC where Windows software (e.g. Touchstone) is used to provide enhanced functionality and data analysis. The connection is made using a mini USB cable. (NOTE: A high quality USB cable should be used in order to limit EMC interference from the PC that could influence your measurements.)
Documentation for Touchstone can be found here.
Touchstone continuously scans and samples the signal strength (dBm) of frequencies in the range the user has specified. In the 'Spectrum Trace' view the signal strength data (in dBm) is displayed as a function of frequency.
The 'Waterfall History' view is also known as a "heatmap" graph. It provides a color-based visualization of the RF level and activity over time. As signal levels for specific frequencies or frequency ranges increase and decrease, the waterfall map varies its colors. This feature provides a quick glance back into the sweep history to identify aberrations or fluctuation in frequency levels.
The 'Topographic Map' chart shows accumulated RF energy as a function of frequency. The power of the signal strength in dBm is shown across the frequency span. A signal strength with a relatively low occurrence is 'blueish' in color, whereas increasingly brighter colors are used for signal strengths that occur more frequently. Signal strengths that occur most often are 'redish' in color. Over time, this spectral view will approximate the steady-state RF energy signature of a given environment.
The 'Delta Trace' view can be used to view small (or large) changes in the RF spectrum over time. Here's how it works... When scanning begins the first trace is saved as a 'snapshot'. For all subsequent scans, the snapshot trace is subtracted from the current trace and the difference, i.e. 'delta', is displayed. Plotting the data in this way makes it easy to detect RF changes that occurred since the initial 'snapshot'.
The 'Threshold Trace' view highlights with a yellow box those frequencies whose signal strength exceeds a user-defined threshold. This feature is especially useful for visually emphasizing strong signals (and deemphasizing weak ones), where the user gets to define 'strong' and 'weak' according to where they set the threshold..
'Monitored Frequencies' mode allows you to monitor specific frequencies. For example, in the setting of a live performance where it is important to monitor the channels that have been assigned to wireless audio devices, this feature can be used to ensure those channels are not being impacted by other sources of RF transmissions. Alternatively, if there are wireless devices that transmit at specific frequencies and you wish to monitor their transmissions, then this mode can be used to verify they are currently operating.
'Monitored Bands' mode allows you to monitor specific frequency bands. For example, in a cell-phone free area, the this feature can be used to monitor the frequency bands used by cell phones for the purpose of detecting prohibited transmissions.
'Data Logging' mode allows recording of spectrum trace data (in CSV format) for extended periods. As the logging progresses it is displayed in the form of a waterfall / heatmap that gradually scrolls upward with each scan.
Included in the installation folder is an example of a VBA macro for viewing the CSV data as a heatmap in Microsoft Excel. NOTE: The heatmap created above by Touchstone-Pro and the one below created by Excel use the same data but different color scales.
RF Explorer spectrum analyzer is a very unique device. Together with Touchstone software you now have an RF diagnostic tool unmatched in price and performance. Armed with the ability to monitor RF signals, detect RF interference and view all RF activity that occurs in your environment, solving wireless problems just got a whole lot easier.