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Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi wins Charles Stark Draper Prize for the Viterbi algorithm

Jan 15, 2016

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The Viterbi algorithm has proved crucial to interplanetary communication signals for space missions—and it was developed almost 50 years ago. Qualcomm co-founder Dr. Andrew Viterbi  developed the algorithm as a way to decode convolutionally encoded data, and it’s still used today. And on January 5, Dr. Viterbi was announced as the winner of the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering for the development of his algorithm.

The biennial Draper Prize honors engineers who have made valuable contributions to society by “improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting the access to information.” The Viterbi algorithm was initially developed for space communication and was later adapted for the telecommunication industry. It continues to play a large role in GSM, CDMA, TDMA, 3G, and 4G LTE technologies. The formula is also used in other applications, such as magnetic recording, speech recognition, and DNA sequence analysis. It’s even been used to decode interplanetary communication signals for the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover space missions.

Before Qualcomm, Dr. Viterbi and fellow Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs started the Linkabit Corporation. Dr. Viterbi was also a professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA and UC San Diego, and is now Professor Emeritus. Now retired from Qualcomm, Dr. Viterbi serves as the president of the Viterbi Group, a technical advisory and venture capital company.

Dr. Viterbi will receive the Draper Prize for Engineering on February 16.

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