The Increasing number of Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) applications has led industries to design the physical layer (PHY) of these networks following the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. The traditional design of that layer is on hardware suffering from a lack of flexibility of radio parameters, such as changing both frequency bands and modulations. This problem is emphasized by the scarcity of the radio-frequency spectrum. Software Defined Radio (SDR) is an attracting solution to easily reconfigure radio parameters. In addition to SDR, a cognitive radio concept can be proposed by spectrum sensing and Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) both to overcome the spectrum scarcity problem. This thesis proposes a new SDR solution for WSNs based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Our aim is to characterize an SDR platform that implements two standardized PHY layers and cognitive radio for WSNs. In this thesis, we carried out SDR implementations using a GNU Radio and Universal Software Peripheral Radio (USRP) platform. We chose this particular platform because it is one of the most practical and well-performed ones. A thorough study was performed to analyze GNU Radio software architecture before its usage. USRPs and their daughter boards were also analyzed through experimental radio-frequency measurements. The analysis of the GNU Radio USRP platform brought a detailed description of its architecture and performances as well as the way to implement an SDR. This description particularly assists researchers to quickly develop efficient SDR receivers and transmitters. We show through our experiments that the measured performances of daughter boards mounted on a USRP are lower than expected ones. Despite these results, some daughter boards have many interesting features such as large covered frequency bands and with a linear output power. An empirical model was introduced to accurately characterize the average output power of a particular daughter board.
Then, we implemented a new possible standardized PHY layer for the 868/915 MHz frequency band. A reverse engineering process of another implementation was performed for the 2450 MHz frequency band. These two PHY layers were described by communication chains or flow graphs. We suggested a new Cognitive Radio by a reconfiguration of these flow graphs within the corresponding frequency bands. The particularity of our cognitive radio is to reconfigure flow graphs in function to the selected frequency. This selection is performed by both DSA and spectrum sensing based on energy detection through real wireless communications. We introduced a message based algorithm in order to reconfigure the flow graphs and to synchronize the selection of a carrier frequency. Our two implemented PHY layers for the 2450 MHz and the 868/915 frequency bands were found functional. The first one was tested by exchanging data packets with real sensor nodes. The second was also experienced by a packet exchange, but via GNURadio/USRP communications. Both tests were carried out through real communications. We were also able to measure two wireless communication parameters: Bit Error Rate (BER) and the Packet Success Rate (PSR). The result of functional PHY layers was beneficial for realization and experiments of our cognitive radio. We found that our DSA significantly improves the packet success rate compared to that obtained with static spectrum access in an indoor environment. The results of this thesis lead to experiment a cognitive radio with an SDR not only for a WSN, but also for other wireless networks and radio standards.