Touchstone Mobile Documentation
Touchstone Mobile for Android devices is the first (and only) mobile application for RF Explorer handheld spectrum analyzers. Like Touchstone and Touchstone-Pro, the Touchstone Mobile app 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.
Touchstone Mobile offers a variety of diagnostic views of the data captured by the RF Explorer device. Employing multiple views of the data enhances your ability to gain a better understanding of the local, RF landscape in which your wireless network is operating.
Touchstone Mobile features two different Scan Modes: Spectrum Analysis, and Monitored Frequencies. The Spectrum Analysis charts provide an overall picture of RF energy signals in your environment. As the name suggests, these charts measure all RF energy across a frequency range and chart the signal strength of the frequencies in the range currently being scanned. The 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, the Monitored Frequencies feature can be used to ensure those channels are not being impacted by other sources of RF transmissions.
In order for an Android device to use Touchstone Mobile to communicate with an RF Explorer device we have identified 4 requirements:
 The Android device must be running version 4.1 (Jelly Bean) of the OS, or higher.
 The output power on the Android device’s USB port should be 5V.
 USB Host Mode must be enabled on your Android device.
 A USB OTG (On-The-Go) cable is used to connect the Android device to the mini-USB port on RF Explorer.
For more information: USB Host Mode (Android) and the OTG USB Extension.
Installing and Launching the Application
Touchstone Mobile is available from Google’s Play Store. The app is installed on your Android device from Google’s Play Store. For evaluation purposes the app is free to download and install and can be run in “Demo” mode without an RF Explorer device. A software license key costs $49 USD and enables the app to use an RF Explorer device to collect spectrum trace data in real-time.
2) You will need administrative privileges in order to install the application software on your computer. Please login to an account on your computer that includes ‘Administrator’ rights before proceeding with the installation.
3) If you will be using an RF Viewer device, then attach that to your PC’s USB port before running the installation / setup program. If you will be using an RF Explorer device, then that gets attached after the installation / setup program completes.
4) Run the installation / setup program and follow the prompts for installing the application. Be sure to review the License Agreement as you progress through the installation procedure — each license key can be used to install the software on a single machine. When the Setup Wizard has completed then click the ‘Finish’ button. Please note that in addition to the application, the installation program should also install USB drivers from Silicon Labs (RF Explorer) or Zadig (RF Viewer). By default the application is installed in the folder ‘\Program Files (x86)\NutsAboutNets\Touchstone’ (or ‘TouchstonePro’) and a desktop icon is created.
5) Attach an RF Explorer spectrum analyzer to your PC using a USB-to-PC connection cable.
6) Touchstone-Pro requires a license key (i.e. activation or registration code). The first time the application is launched you will be prompted to register the application. When the software was purchased you should have received an email with your license key. To register the program enter your email address (the one used when you purchased the software) and the license key you received by email. If you have not yet purchased a license key you can still evaluate the software by running in “demo” mode that uses simulated data. To run in “demo” mode launch the application without an RF Explorer or RF Viewer spectrum analyzer attached to your PC.
RF Spectrum Trace
Continuously scans and samples the signal strength (dBm) of RF transmissions within the specified frequency range. By default 3 traces are displayed — Current (green), Maxima (red) and Active (gray). The Current trace displays the signal strength data from the most recent scan, the Maxima trace displays the maximum signal strength for each frequency since the scan session began (similar to a ‘Peak and Hold’ function), and the Active trace displays real-time data as the RF Explorer device is actively scanning. Optionally, a Reference (blue) trace may also be displayed.
In the upper-right-hand corner of the Spectrum Trace view there is a small rectangle that displays the current [x,y] grid coordinates in MHz and dBm. As you move the mouse cursor around the chart, these coordinates are continuously updated.
When you right-click the mouse button, a popup menu appears with several choices you can select from:
◦ ‘Region-Of-Interest’ (ROI) using the left mouse button
◦ Create Marker points or ‘Hot Spots’ using the left mouse button
◦ Full Screen view
◦ Clear Markers and ROI outline from the display
◦ Hide Maxima Trace
◦ Hide Reference Trace
These choices are discussed further below:
Left Button used for specifying a Region-Of-Interest (ROI): (Touchstone Pro-only)
By pressing and dragging the left mouse button you can outline a Region-Of-Interest or ROI. A dialog box appears to remind you that you can restore the original frequency range by selecting Zoom Out from the popup menu. After pressing OK, the Spectrum Trace view is readjusted to accommodate the new frequency range.
Left Button used for creating Marker points or ‘Hot Spots’:
When you select Left Button: Marker Points from the popup menu then subsequent left-clicks create Marker points or Hot Spots that display the corresponding frequency (in MHz) and signal strength (in dBm) for the location in the grid that you just clicked on.
Full Screen view:
When you select Full Screen from the popup menu, the Spectrum Trace view will enlarge to fill the entire screen, and the two lower windows will become minimized. To restore the Spectrum Trace view to its original dimensions, access the popup menu by right-clicking the mouse and select Restore Screen.
Clear Markers and ROI outline from the display:
If the Spectrum Trace view becomes too cluttered with Markers, then these can be removed from the display by selecting Clear Markers from the popup menu.
Hide Maxima Trace:
When you select this option from the popup menu then the Maxima trace is no longer displayed. If the Maxima trace is currently hidden and you wish to display it again, then from the popup menu select Show Maxima Trace and it will once again be displayed in the view.
Hide Reference Trace:
When you select this option from the popup menu, the Reference trace will no longer be displayed. If the Reference trace is currently hidden and you want it to be displayed again, then select Show Reference Trace from the popup menu. In order to show a Reference trace it is first necessary to save a trace to a file.
A three-dimensional representation of RF signal transmissions that displays 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 that appears 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 ‘reddish’ in color. Another way of stating this would be to say the Topographic Map uses color to mark the rate of occurrence (i.e. how often) a particular signal strength occurs.
Over time, the Topographic Map will approximate the steady-state RF energy signature of the current environment, giving the user a better, more general idea of the environment. This is because the Topographic Map deemphasizes outliers such as intermittent or random signals while at the same time emphasizing signal transmissions that occur more frequently.
A 3-dimensional representation of the RF energy data (i.e. signal transmissions), where the X-axis is the frequency scale, the Y-axis is a time scale, and the “Z-axis” is the color scale. Each horizontal line in the Waterfall chart displays the signal strength (as a color) as a function of frequency as measured over the time period of one scan. That is, with each scan (or sweep) a new row is added at the bottom of the Waterfall chart. The color legend to the right shows that stronger signals will appear red and weaker signals will appear blue.
Under the Control Panel’s Scale Settings tab you will find the Waterfall Scale control, which applies only to the Waterfall History view. This control can be used to rescale the signal strengths to better spread them across the range of colors that are used. This is useful when all the signal strengths are large and the Waterfall appears mostly red or when all the signal strengths are low and the Waterfall appears mostly blue. For the best visual effect, ideally you’d like the peaks (strong signals) to appear red and the valleys (weak signals) to appear blue. But sometimes even the valleys have large signal strength values or the peaks have low signal strength values. This control is useful in remapping the color legend to better make use of the colors and how they are spread across the peaks and valleys of the signal strength values.
This mode displays the RF signal strength that is detected at specific frequencies defined by the user. The user is alerted when the RF energy detected at one of those frequencies exceeds a threshold (here called the Alert Threshold). Up to 160 frequencies (within the frequency range supported by your analyzer) can be specified and monitored at one time. If the signal strength of an interfering transmitter were to rise above the Alert Threshold (specified by the user) then the corresponding bar for that frequency turns red (otherwise it appears green).
The purpose of this feature is to alert you in the event the ambient RF energy, measured at specific frequencies, were to rise above a threshold value — thereby posing a risk to using a specific frequency as one of the channels you assign to an audio transmitter. 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.
The frequencies being monitored are displayed across the horizontal axes according to their ID numbers (as opposed to their frequency in Hertz, as in the Spectrum Analysis views). For example, the green bar above the number 124 in the above screen capture represents the RF energy transmitted at whatever frequency the user defined the 124th monitored frequency as, and this frequency may be either higher or lower than the frequency assigned to the ID number 123, depending entirely upon the user’s definition. When the RF signal strength as measured at a particular frequency exceeds the Alert Threshold then its corresponding bar appears red, otherwise it appears green.
To specify frequencies you wish to monitor select Tools > Monitored Frequencies… from the main menu. The Monitored Frequencies dialog box will then appear.
The check boxes in the leftmost column allow you to select which frequencies you’d like to monitor — if a check appears in the check box then that frequency will be monitored — otherwise, if unchecked, then it will be ignored. The second column (from the left) displays the frequency ID displayed in the chart, as mentioned above. The third column displays the user-defined frequency in MHz which corresponds to the ID number preceding it. Finally, the last column displays a description for this frequency or channel. Typically, the description will correspond to the device assigned to this channel.
The Alert Threshold can be adjusted using the slider control at the bottom of the dialog box. If the signal strength at a monitored frequency exceeds the threshold, the bar above the corresponding ID number will turn red (otherwise it appears green).
As a side note, the Monitored Frequencies dialog box can not be accessed while the analyzer is actively scanning. That is, if the analyzer is scanning and you wish to make changes to the monitored frequencies then it is necessary to first press the Stop button.
Touchstone-Pro features three different Scan Modes: Spectrum Analysis, Monitored Frequencies, and Monitored Bands. The Spectrum Analysis charts provide an overall picture of RF energy signals in your environment. As the name suggests, these charts measure all RF energy across a frequency range and chart the signal strength of the frequencies in the range currently being scanned. The Monitored Frequencies and Monitored Bands modes are similar in that they allow you to monitor specific frequencies or bands. 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, the Monitored Frequencies feature can be used to ensure those channels are not being impacted by other sources of RF transmissions. Similarly, in a cell-phone free area, the Monitored Bands feature can be used to monitor the frequency bands used by cell phones for the purpose of detecting prohibited transmissions.
The Start and End frequencies define the boundaries of the RF spectrum trace when the analyzer is scanning and measuring RF energy across a frequency range. The frequency settings are always specified in units of megahertz (MHz). These can be set directly or, if you prefer, indirectly by setting the Center frequency and the Span. Supported frequencies depend on which analyzer model is currently attached to the PC.
The Vertical Scale slider controls the height of the Y-axis in the Spectrum Trace view. By default it is set to -30 dBm (the maximum value). If the signal strengths are low then decreasing the Vertical Scale has the effect of “zooming” the trace views. This has no effect on the data acquisition but, rather, simply how the data is displayed.
The Waterfall Scale slider control applies only to the Waterfall History view. This control can be used to rescale and remap the signal strengths to better spread them across the range of colors that are used (see legend to the right of the Waterfall History view). This is useful when all the signal strengths are large and the Waterfall view appears mostly red or when all the signal strengths are low and the Waterfall view appears mostly blue. For the best visual effect, ideally you’d like the peaks (strong signals) to appear red and the valleys (weak signals) to appear blue. But sometimes even the valleys have large signal strength values or the peaks have low signal strength values. This control is useful in remapping the color legend to better make use of the colors and how they are spread across the peaks and valleys of the signal strength values.
Record And Playback
This feature allows you to record and playback scanning sessions. After recording for the desired time then press the ‘Stop’ scanning button. The Save button is then enabled and is used to save your most recent scanning session to a file. To play a previously recorded scan session, use the Open button to select a saved recording and then press the Play button.
Threshold Trace Setting
This setting is where you specify a threshold value that is applied to the Threshold Trace diagnostic chart. Frequencies whose signal strength exceeds this threshold will be highlighted with a yellow box.
This feature allows some control over the resolution bandwidth (RBW) used during scanning. The resolution bandwidth determines the smallest distance between adjacent peaks that can be resolved. The smaller the RBW, the finer the resolution. Finer resolutions result in longer scans, since more data points need to be acquired.
This feature makes it easy to create a PDF report. Select Create Report from the main menu and you will be prompted for a folder and filename. An Adobe PDF-formatted file will be created that includes all charts. Selecting Open Report allows you to open and view Adobe PDF-formatted reports you’ve previously created (or any other PDF file).
Two types of profiles — pre-configured (or built-in) and user-defined. The difference is that user-defined profiles are created by you and stored as files that can later be loaded into the application. Profiles control many parameters, e.g. the Start and End frequencies. When you load a user-defined profile then these settings are immediately applied throughout the application and will be in effect the next time the Start scan button is pressed.
User-defined profiles can not be accessed while the receiver is actively scanning — that is, if the receiver is scanning and you to change the profile then it is necessary to first press the Stop scan button.
To save the current settings as a new, user-defined profile then select File > Save As Profile from the main menu, which will then prompt you to specify a filename and location to save the profile. The default location is the ‘Profiles’ folder one level below the installation directory, and the default file extension is *.prf (for Profile). Along with specifying a filename and location you will prompted for a short description for this profile that will appear in the Control Panel’s title bar.
To open a user-defined profile that you had previously created, select File > Open Profile from the main menu and select the desired profile. The settings stored in the profile will then be immediately applied throughout the application and will be in effect the next time the Start button is pressed. Also, the application’s title bar will change to reflect the description of the newly applied profile.
Built-in (or pre-configured) profiles control certain settings, such as the frequency range that is scanned. When you select one of the built-in profiles from the drop-down list then those settings are immediately applied throughout the application and will be in effect the next time the Start button is pressed. In general, built-in profiles use default settings and differ only in their Start and End frequencies. Please note that depending on the frequency range supported by your receiver, not all profiles may be applicable.
Built-in profiles can not be accessed while the receiver is actively scanning — that is, if the receiver is scanning and you wish to change the profile then it is necessary to first press the Stop scan button.
This feature allows the user to import a saved trace that appears as a ‘reference trace’ on the Spectrum Trace chart when scanning is active. This is useful when it is desirable to compare current traces with a trace that was collected at a prior time and/or different location. To load a reference trace select Add Reference Trace from the main menu, and you will then be prompted to select a file to import as the Reference Trace.
IMPORTANT: The file used as a reference trace must have previously been saved using the ‘Export Last Trace’ feature (see below).
When scanning is active then the reference trace appears in blue and is static — that is, it does not change.
This feature allows you to save a spectrum trace to a file, in XML or CSV format, for use by another program. Several options are available. The first three allow you to select the format (CSV or XML) of the exported file. The fourth option, ‘Apply Frequency Boundaries’, allows you to specify whether the frequencies (and signal strengths) recorded in the trace should be calculated for 25, 50, or 100 KHz intervals, or whether to not round the data at all. Applying frequency boundaries could be of value if you plan to import this data to another application that assumes wireless devices are assigned channels that fall on 25, 50 and 100 KHz boundaries. The fifth option, ‘Set amplitudes above’, allows you to emphasize those frequencies whose signal strength exceeds a threshold. In the resultant file the signal amplitudes will have a value of either -30 (dBm) or -105 (dBm) depending whether the original signal exceeds the threshold you’ve specified. That is, if the original signal exceeds the threshold then it will be recorded as -30 (dBm) in the resultant file and if it does not exceed the threshold then it will be recorded as -105 (dBm). To use this option, select the check box and use the slider control to set a threshold value (in dBm). When you press the ‘Export’ button you will then be prompted for a folder and filename to save the exported spectrum trace data.
This feature allows you to compare two traces captured at different times. Use the ‘Load #1’ and ‘Load #2’ buttons to select the two spectrum traces to be compared. Trace #1 is plotted in yellow, and Trace #2 is plotted in green.
IMPORTANT: The trace files to be compared must have previously been saved using the ‘Export Last Trace’ feature (see above).
Nuts About Nets, LLC
Touchstone Pro – RF Spectrum Analyzer Software
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