Research company promises better compression

KT-Tech Inc., a Bowie, Md.-based company with a long history of NASA research and development work, is pitching to agencies a compression codec that it claims is more efficient than technologies now in wide use.

This month, the company was awarded 76 patents surrounding its compression algorithms, said KT-Tech founder Bao-Ting Lerner. Although the technology received no direct government funding, research in the area was sparked by what the company saw as government agency needs in compression. The company is now pitching its technology to agency and contractor program managers.

The company claims that this codec can offer a superior resolution per file size to more widely used media compression algorithms, such as the JPEG standard for images. A codec, short for compressor/decompressor, is an algorithm for compressing and decompressing media files. Codecs are used to shrink images, videos and audio so they can be stored in less space and transmitted more easily over communications conduits.

'What JPEG does is pixelates everything, breaks images up into very small boxes,' Lerner said. Instead of using JPEG's secret sauce'an algorithm known as discrete cosine transform'HT-Tech's technology draws from mathematical work in wavelet theory, another scaling algorithm. The difference is that as JPEG images get boxier the more they are compressed, KT-Tech images get fuzzier. Fuzzy pictures are easier to decipher than pixelated ones, Lerner claimed.

KT-Tech's codec can work not only for images, but for audio and video files as well, Lerner said. This codec can encapsulate an image with higher resolution than a JPEG image of identical file size. The company also is marketing the algorithm as an alternative to the MPEG and H.261 video formats and to the MP3, Microsoft Windows Media and Real Media audio files.

KT-Tech has developed a licensing agreement that the company hopes will be used by agencies interested in developing low-bandwidth services.

'Everyone else is going broadband. We're going to focus on the narrowband market,' Lerner said. For instance, the codec can be used in unmanned aerial vehicles, where the bandwidth between the vehicles and relay stations is at a minimum. Another use would be to shrink training videos so that they can be played smoothly on handheld computers, Lerner said.

Mobile video conferencing is another possible application. As a demonstration, the company can set up a video stream from a desktop computer running a standard desktop Logitech Webcam to a wireless handheld device running on an AT&T 2.5 G wireless network. A live video feed can be established at 1.5 frames-per-second using a throughput of only 23 kilobits per second. The video client on the handheld device is less than 100 kilobytes in size.

KT-Techsupports NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, assisting in tasks such as advanced spatial information technologies. Prior to starting KT-Tech in 1993, Lerner taught at the Naval Academy.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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