Professor and Student Collaborate on JBIG2 Innovation

While we often focus on the faculty member’s technology transfer experience, sometimes the students—thanks to the hard work of their advisors—are able to have a fulfilling technology transfer experience. This article is about one such instance.

Yan Ye, Ph.D. came to UC San Diego in September 1997 as a graduate student in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering when Professor Pamela Cosman became her advisor. “I chose her as my Ph.D. advisor,” said Dr. Ye, “because her research interests matched with my background very well.” Together they initially worked on research in lossless image compression. But in the autumn of 1998, Dr. Hyung-Hwa Koh from South Korea was a visiting scholar, in Prof. Cosman’s lab at UCSD, who also had expertise in JBIG2 encoding.

According to the JBIG2 standards website (http://www.jpeg.org/jbigpt2.html) “JBIG2 is a format for bi-level (black/white) image compression that offers significant advantages over other compression formats:

  • Large increases in compression performance (typically, [file sizes] 3-5 times smaller than Group 4/MMR, 2-4 times smaller than JBIG1);
  • Special compression methods for text, halftones, and other binary image content;
  • Lossy and lossless compression;
  • Multi-page document compression;
  • Flexible format, designed for easy embedding in other image file formats, such as TIFF;
  • High-performance decompression: using some coding modes, images can be decompressed at over 250 million pixels/second in software.

(The acronym JBIG stands for Joint Bi-level Image Experts Group, and so the JBIG2 standard is the second round of standards written by this group.)

Yan Ye, after an initial collaboration with Dr. Koh, shifted her research focus to coming up with an efficient JBIG2 encoder. Her joint work with Prof. Cosman resulted in an innovation that was submitted to the Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Services office (TechTIPS). This innovation was shown to be a superior method of encoding images within the JBIG2 standard. This was documented in benchmark results published in five conference papers and two journal papers by Yan and Prof. Cosman (which are available on Prof. Cosman’s publication list at http://www.code.ucsd.edu/~pcosman/pcpapers.html). Yan was able to deliver the talks at conferences, in places as far away as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Tianjin, China. She also presented the work to industry representatives of the Center for Wireless Communications (CWC), which sponsored the work. The innovation was also the basis for her doctoral dissertation, entitled “Text Image Compression Based on Pattern Matching.” Yan Ye graduated in February 2002 and went to work at a small start-up in Carlsbad.

During this time TechTIPS was marketing the innovation in a variety of industries, including CWC members and fax machine manufacturers. The office also elected to move forward with licensing the innovation as a copyright-protected work. The marketing effort had been underway for some time when a small Atlanta, Georgia-based company, called Apago, expressed an interest.

Apago, Inc. (www.apago.com) is a software development company providing workflow solutions for pre-press and graphics art users. Apago’s software solutions integrate PostScript, PDF, PDF/X, TIFF/IT and Scitex systems into a single production environment. Apago’s software has been integrated into many products through extensive OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) licensing and development partnerships. Dwight Kelly, President of Apago, said “We discovered the UCSD JBIG2 encoder from published research papers. We were impressed by the results shown in the papers and started inquiring about availability of code.”

TechTIPS moved quickly to license the work to Apago, and consummated the company’s interest with a license agreement. Today, the innovation stands on the verge of commercialization. “After extensive work, we have successfully integrated it into our product, PDF Enhancer 2.0 which is expected to be released in early October 2003,” stated Kelly, adding “Everyone at UCSD was very prompt and easy to work with.” From Prof. Cosman’s perspective “The tech transfer process for this license was rather painless.”

It is important to realize that the most important aspect of a student’s experience is guidance from faculty member. As Dr. Ye stated to our office “I liked Prof. Cosman’s advising style from the start: she was always available for discussions whenever I had questions or issues and that was very valuable and important to me.” And a faculty member also benefits from the advisory experience. Prof. Cosman stated “Yan was great to work with, because she is very quick and creative. Also, this type of compression of text images based on pattern matching was not something I’d worked on before, so it was fun to learn a new area.”

In addition to the classes-research-thesis cycle of most graduate students, students who participate in the technology transfer process experience an additional aspect of the university. As Prof. Cosman pointed out, “Yan had exposure to various things that many students don’t deal with: an invention disclosure, an example of how to market something, what makes for good working software that someone else can understand and use. She strikes me as an entrepreneurial sort of person, and this exposure might help her at some point.”

Dr. Ye, now a senior engineer at Qualcomm, described her technology transfer experience to TechTIPS this way, “I found it rather satisfying. Before and after we licensed our software to Apago, a few research groups at different universities were interested in our software and obtained it free of charge for academic use. By licensing it to Apago, I was very happy to know that the software we developed for our research also had real-world values for the industry too.” Dr. Cosman, echoing Dr. Ye’s sentiments, stated “I don’t want to be 100% an ivory-tower academic – I like that my work is being used in a commercial product. It’s the best of both worlds to be able to come up with an algorithm that is both of academic interest and also of commercial usefulness.”

Professor Cosman’s efforts in creating this significant technology transfer experience for her students are why she is our featured innovator.