23 Jan 2014

MIMO antenna pioneer wins Marconi prize

Stanford University researcher, Professor Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj, has won the 2014 Marconi Society Prize for developing the theory and applications of MIMO antennas.

His idea for using multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving stations - which is at the heart of the current high speed WiFi and 4G mobile systems - has revolutionized high speed wireless delivery of multimedia services for billions of people.

The prize comes just three years after Paulraj was honored with the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal for his work on theoretical foundations of MIMO.

“Paulraj’s contributions to wireless technology, and the resulting benefit to mankind, are indisputable. Every WiFi router and 4G phone today uses MIMO technology pioneered by him,” says Vint Cerf, Vice Chairman of the Marconi Society.

Paulraj - widely known as Paul - was born in India, finished high school at 15 and joined the Indian Navy where his training focused on practical skills for maintaining weapons systems.

During this time, he also taught himself subjects like information theory and signal processing, which finally led to a PhD from Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), for work on non-linear estimation theory.

In 1977, the Navy assigned him to lead an ambitious project to develop advanced sonars. Overcoming difficult circumstances, his team developed a world-class sonar system (APSOH) that was inducted into fleet service in 1983, a stunning achievement in military electronics for India.

Paul then joined Prof Thomas Kailath’s research group at Stanford where he worked on a multiple signals Directions of Arrival (DOA) estimation problem and soon invented a new method called ESPRIT leading to a mini-revolution in this field.

During his career, he pioneered Spatial Multiplexing for increasing throughput in wireless systems using multiple transmit and receive antennas (MIMO - Multiple Input, Multiple Output) and founded Iospan Wireless to develop a MIMO-OFDMA based fixed wireless system. Intel acquired Iospan’s technology in 2003, using it to spearhead the WiMAX standards.

He also co-founded Beceem Communications to develop WiMAX semiconductors in 2004, with the company later acquired by Broadcom.

With characteristic modesty, Paul says, “MIMO technology is today embedded in 4G mobile and WiFi. It has taken the effort of thousands of engineers and researchers around the world, many of them truly eminent, to make this happen. My contribution, in comparison, is indeed small.”

Paul was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2006, and to several national academies around the world. He received the Padma Bhushan, a major Indian award, in 2010 and the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal in 2011.

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