Titan's ICE may solve compression problems

A picture often equals or betters hundreds if not thousands of words but not if you try to stuff a large photo file down a thin communications pipe. Military communicators have tried to solve this problem with compression schemes that shrunk the picture but also reduced the sharpness needed when transmitting high-resolution satellite images.

Pentagon managers believe they may have solved this problem based on the successful field tests of an advanced image compression system during last month's Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration. JWID is an annual event designed to test in an operational scenario emerging computer and telecommunications technologies that are capable of transition to active duty.

Navy Capt. Dennis Murphy believes that the Increased Compression Engine (ICE) developed by Titan Corp. will emerge as one of the "golden nuggets" of JWID '97 based on the technology's ability to compress images resulting in a compact file that can be transmitted quickly over a narrow-band circuit and still preserve the contrasts needed by combat commanders.

Murphy a career submariner believes ICE will have particular utility on submarines that have narrow-band communications systems. The USS Atlanta used ICE during JWID and achieved compression ratios of up to 100 to 1 for gray-scale images and up to 150 to 1 for color images according to William Baer the ICE program manager for Titan Corp. Baer said ICE uses wavelet-based compression technology to achieve such high-compression ratios.

During JWID an Air Force spokesman said he believed ICE could fit well into tactical systems because even at high-compression ratios the system "still preserved areas of high contrast which is what a photo interpreter needs to identify objects."

ICE runs on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT or Windows 95 and includes a tool set to manage image compression or decompression as well as an e-mail interface. ICE uses under license a wavelet-compression algorithm developed by Aware Inc. according to Edmund Reiter Aware's vice president for advanced products.

He said Titan developed "a very sophisticated front end for our compression" for ICE. According to Reiter wavelet technology allows higher compression ratios than those used by other compression engines such as the widespread JPEG or Joint Photographic Experts Group format.

Wavelets were discovered in the late 1980s Reiter said adding that Aware was formed to commercialize the technology. Aware has successfully demonstrated the use of wavelets to compress sonar images. It also has successfully applied wavelet-compression technology to medical imaging systems including telemedicine another JWID demonstration held aboard the Atlanta.

In addition the FBI has incorporated wavelet technologies into its new fingerprint identification system using the Aware WSQ Gray Scale Fingerprint Image Compression Specification to compress fingerprints.

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