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The European Patent Office (EPO) Nominates U.S. Based Inventor Marta Karczewicz a European Inventor Award 2019 Finalist for Advancing Video Compression

Karczewicz’s inventions are at the core of popular online streaming services, allow audiences worldwide to watch films and video on mobile devices.

MUNICH(10 May 2019)

The European Patent Office (EPO) announced today that Marta Karczewicz, a renowned inventor and Vice President for Technology at Qualcomm Technologies in San Diego, has been nominated for the European Inventor Award 2019 as one of three finalists in the category “Lifetime achievement” for her work in video compression. She has dedicated her career to inventing technology that has enabled the compression of video files by a factor of 1,000 without losing perceivable image quality.

Karczewicz’s hundreds of inventions have helped make it possible to stream high quality video, run video conferences and use virtual and augmented reality on mobile devices. Today, at Qualcomm Technologies, she continues to work at the forefront of new technological developments.

“Marta Karczewicz is a prolific inventor,” said EPO President António Campinos about her nomination as a finalist for the European Inventor Award 2019. “Her many contributions to codecs and technical standards have facilitated the transformation of video streaming and the video entertainment industry for the benefit of consumers.”

The winners of the 2019 edition of the EPO's annual innovation prize will be announced at a ceremony in Vienna on June 20.

Shaping the Industry Standard for Streaming Video

Audiences worldwide are watching an increasing amount of video on a variety of devices, demanding increasingly higher streaming quality. But since video streams contain huge amounts of data and require large bandwidth and storage spaces, video and IT specialists needed to find a way to compress data without compromising image quality. Over the past 20 years, Karczewicz has invented technology which enables video to be compressed by a factor of 1,000 without losing perceivable image quality, and which today allow audiences across the world to stream videos with a standard internet connection. Every time a video is streamed on an online service or broadcast over a high-definition television signal on many terrestrial broadcast networks, it is likely encoded using the Advanced Video Coding (AVC) video standard she has helped shape.

Karczewicz has always been passionate about mathematics and is a great fan of films with special effects. Having ranked among the top ten at the Mathematical Olympiad in Poland, she accepted a grant from Nokia to study signal and image processing at Tampere University in Finland. There, she developed an interest in data compression.

“I like problems which require analyzing large amounts of data and looking for patterns and that’s what basically video compression is,” said Karczewicz.

While later working for Nokia, Karczewicz developed key components of AVC, the most commonly used video codec on the market for the recording, compression and distribution of video content worldwide. The codec is the technology which compresses the video, based on the principle of reducing redundancy or repeated information by exploiting the similarities within a frame or between successive frames in a video. Codecs are bundles of modules and algorithms that run processes on consumer devices.

One of Karczewicz’s most notable inventions relating to AVC is her patented deblocking filter, typically used in set-top boxes, that smoothens pixels arising along sharp outlines and ‘ghost-like’ halos in images. AVC simplifies images for transmission by breaking them down into simpler blocks of information. It reduces the file size but it also gives rise to sharper contrasts between adjacent blocks. The deblocking filter is used to examine pixels within neighboring blocks and smoothens out sharp variations, maintaining image quality while reducing file size.

Karczewicz went on to complete her doctorate degree and worked at Nokia for several years before moving to San Diego in 2006 to work at Qualcomm. Here, she continues to develop cutting-edge codecs and contributed to the latest video coding standards including High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), an AVC successor, enabling faster streaming on mobile devices.

Making Video Streaming Available for Everybody

The codecs which Karczewicz developed have transformed the video entertainment industry and made video streaming available to much wider audiences. Her hundreds of inventions have given rise to popular online streaming services, allowing audiences worldwide to watch films and series on their tablets and smartphones.

Over the decades, Karczewicz has been named as an inventor on over 400 patent applications, of which nearly 130 have become granted European patents. For Karczewicz, patents are a vital catalyst in her field, facilitating the transfer of knowledge and helping to advance technology.

“Companies have to protect their proprietary expertise, but they also have to work together if they want progress,” she commented, adding that intellectual property has enabled her and peers to share inventions, build on each other’s ideas and advance technical standards across the industry. “We make our inventions known so that others can take them further and be inspired by them. When that happens, it makes me even more proud.”

Transforming the Video Entertainment Industry

Patenting inventions and incorporating them into technical standards through standards bodies can benefit the entire industry, allowing for faster adoption of the latest technologies and quicker time-to-market for products that use these technologies. Karczewicz’s inventions at Qualcomm Technologies are part of Qualcomm Incorporated’s vast patent portfolio, which the company makes available to the industry through its licensing business model.

Without this open exchange in standards bodies, Karczewicz says that data compression would never have met the demands of video streaming so soon.

“Codecs require big teams to build. A single company would struggle to make one alone and its quality would suffer from the lack of competition and exchange of information,” said Karczewicz.

Karczewicz’s inventions have also given audiences 8K x 4K video resolutions at 120 frames per second, allowing users to stream video and use virtual and augmented reality applications on their mobile devices. They have also played a key role in the advancement of telemedicine, allowing doctors to provide medical care from a distance using teleconference technology.

After decades of major contributions to the video industry, Karczewicz continues to be at the forefront of new advances at Qualcomm Technologies, currently working on the Versatile Video Coding (VVC), a new video compression standard that will be launched in 2020.

About the European Inventor Award 
The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honors individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering inventions provide answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. The finalists and winners are selected by an independent jury consisting of international authorities from the fields of business, politics, science, academia and research who examine the proposals for their contribution towards technical progress, social development, economic prosperity and job creation in Europe. The Award is conferred in five categories at a ceremony that will this year take place in Vienna on June 20. In addition, the public selects the winner of the Popular Prize from among the 15 finalists by online voting on the EPO website in the run-up to the ceremony. Voting is open until June 16, 2019.

About the EPO 
With nearly 7,000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralized patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.