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Stanford professor wins Marconi Prize

Bangalore, Jan 22 (IANS) Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj, a 69-year-old India-born professor at Stanford University, has won the prestigious Marconi Prize 2014 for his pioneering work on developing wireless technology to transmit and receive data at high speeds.

“Paulraj’s contributions to wireless technology and the resulting benefit to humankind are indisputable. Every WiFi (wireless fidelity) router and 4G phone uses Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) technology pioneered by him,” Marconi Society chairman David Payne said in a statement from California Wednesday.

The scientist hails from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, about 360 km from here.

Named after Nobel laureate Guglielmo Marconi, who invented radio, and set up in 1974 by his daughter Gioia Marconi Braga through an endowment, the Marconi Society annually awards an outstanding individual whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of “creativity in service to humanity” that inspired Marconi.

The prestigious prize includes $100,000 honourarium and a sculpture. Its honourees become Marconi Fellows.

Among the winners of the prize in the recent past are Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Bin, world wide web (www) designer Tim Berners-Lee, father of internet Vint Cerf, cell phone inventor Martin Cooper and fibre-optic communications developer Charles Kao.

“I am honoured to be chosen for the Marconi Prize and join such an illustrious group of pioneers. It has taken efforts of thousands of engineers and researchers to make MIMO technology a reality. My role, in comparison, is indeed small,” Paulraj said in the statement.

MIMO boosts data rate by creating multiple parallel spatial data streams and is the key to the latest wireless broadband networks like 4G cellular.

“MIMO will soon be pervasive in all wireless devices as Paulraj’s work has provided fertile ground for thousands of researchers to explore and advance its potential to enhance wireless spectrum efficiency,” said Payne, who is also director of the opto-electronics research centre at University of Southampton in Britain.

Paulraj was also honoured with the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal in 2011 for his work on theoretical foundations of MIMO.

“Paulraj is the only India-born scientist to receive both the Marconi Prize and the Bell Medal – the two top global IT technology awards,” editor Anand Parthasarathy told IANS here.

On Paul (as he is popularly known in tech circles) bagging the latest prize, Infosys co-founder and chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy said Paulraj’s brilliance and perseverance have revolutionised wireless technology bringing a lasting benefit to mankind.

“Paul is a wonderful role model for researchers the world over,” Murthy said here.

Paulraj has been a strong proponent for reviving India’s telecom technology industry, noting the high cost to the nation for its near total dependence on telecom imports.

Before Paulraj migrated to the US in the early 1990s, he worked in India where he was well known for pioneering the development of sonars, which detect objects under water by emitting sound pulses and detecting their return.

“Paulraj was the founding director for three major labs in Bangalore – Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) and Central Research Laboratory (CRL),” the statement said.

During the last two decades, the noted techno-scientist built a large research group at Stanford and founded two wireless firms – Iospan Wireless Inc to develop MIMO-OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access), which is adopted for 4G wireless systems, and Beceem Communications that became a leader in 4G semiconductors.

Global chip maker Intel acquired Iospan Wireless Inc for an unspecified amount in 2003, while Broadcom Corporation bought Beceem later.

“While serving in the Indian Navy, Paul was associated with the development of the Advanced Panoramic Sonar Hull (APSOH), which is considered a major achievement in military electronics, as even after three decades, the sonar device is used in the naval fleet of warships,” the statement added.

Paulraj is also an honorary professor at the Beijing Institute of Posts and Telecommunications and Imperial College London.

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