BANGALORE, India Ittiam Systems, an Indian startup, has developed standards-based speech and video codecs that run on multiple fixed-point DSPs and target emerging multimedia markets.
Ittiam claims to be among the first companies to develop a low-bit-rate speech codec capable of running on a programmable DSP. Moreover, it said its high-bit-rate codecs are optimized for performance and memory requirements. "Ittiam is differentiated in terms of the breadth of platforms on which these codecs are available," said G. Ravishankar, vice president of Ittiam's multimedia business.
Ittiam's low-bit-rate MPEG-4 speech codec runs at between 2 and 4 kbits/second and meets the MPEG-4 spec for segmental signal-to-noise ratio for speech quality. The codec's low bit rate and speech quality will target applications with limited transmission bandwidth and storage space, said Srini Rajam, Ittiam's chairman and chief executive. Applications include voice re corders and archival and retrieval speech databases as well as voice-enabled network services.
Ittiam is pitching the codec to wireless operators who could leverage its low bit rate to cut storage requirements for services like voice mail. Rajam estimated the codec could handle three times the voice mail traffic of other codecs, depending on a carrier's server capacity.
The speech codec was designed to run on most fixed-point DSP platforms and is currently supported on three: the C54x and C55x from Texas Instruments Inc. and the StrongARM from Intel Corp. Ittiam said it plans to make the codec available on other DSP platforms such as Motorola's StarCore, Analog Device's Blackfin and custom DSP cores, Ravishankar said.
High-bit-rate, high-quality speech applications for business include voice-over-packet (VoP) gateways that run at a range of speeds and target numerous DSP platforms, the company said. For instance, a GSM-AMR (adaptive multirate coder) codec running on TI's C64x DSP provides higher channel densities for infrastructure applications like VoP gateways and wireless basestations, Ravishankar said.
So far, the low-bit-rate codec has been licensed to an undisclosed U.S. customer. Products using Ittiam's speech codec are expected to reach the market sometime next year.
Analysts said the primary market for the speech codecs is in multimedia mobile appliances. Ittiam estimated the market for mobile appliances at $3 billion in 2001, and the market for speech codecs is expected to grow in parallel with the appliance market.
"Our speech products are [the] most optimal implementations of the specifications given by the standards," Ravishankar said, adding that few MPEG-4 speech codecs are currently available.
Ittiam has also developed MPEG-4 decoder products covering applications ranging from the compression spec's requirements for "simple profile" to "fine granularity scalability" (FGS). Again, the company said all its decoders will be available on multi ple DSP platforms.
The company has also done extensive work on error concealment and recovery of transmitted video signals. "This is very important in all applications where the video data is transmitted across a medium, but absolutely key in wireless applications," Rajam said.
The MPEG-4 simple-profile decoder is said to offer error resilient coding of rectangular video objects. The company is promoting its decoder for applications like surveillance, network cameras, videoconferencing, multimedia gateways, video servers and consumer electronics.
Rajam said Ittiam's MPEG-4 simple-profile decoder has been licensed to a Fortune 100 company.
MPEG-4 FGS, a new video compression framework designed for streaming applications like video-on-demand, has been adopted as the core compression tool for streaming applications. FGS is capable of supporting a range of bandwidths that often characterize Internet Protocol-based networks and the Internet.
Ittiam said its MPEG-4 FGS-based decoder was designe d to cope with bandwidth variations and packet loss faced in Internet-based, real-time video streaming applications.
Typical platforms for MPEG-4 FGS solutions are PCs, notebooks, digital TVs, set-top boxes, mobile handsets, PDAs, thin clients, game consoles, videoconferencing and video phones.
While Ittiam is targeting the multimedia market with its codecs, Rajam said it also plans to launch products in the telecommunications market soon.
Founded in May by Rajam, who was head of Texas Instruments Inc.'s India operations, Ittiam started with six other senior executives from TI India. It represents one of the most ambitious attempts by private entrepreneurs here to enter the global DSP market. So far, 21 products have been completed or are being developed, including 11 in the communications segment and 10 in multimedia. Ittiam also has a U.S. subsidiary handling its marketing activities.