Netravali began his career as a researcher in the area of video technology which led to ground breaking innovation that today impacts people’s everyday lives.
In recognition of Netravali’s research and its far-reaching impact, the Marconi Society awarded him the $100,000 Marconi Prize, which was presented at a gala on October 3 in Summit, NJ.
Current Nokia Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon addressed the Symposium audience, connecting Marconi’s transmission experiments conducted 120 years ago to the innovative work in video technology that was done by Netravali in the 1980s and 1990s.
The former was foundational to modern day communication technology and the latter was foundational to current digital video technology.
“The world we live in is a Marconi World…We are constantly wirelessly connected. We are all disciples and students of Marconi,” said Weldon. “There is no greater legacy and that will only continue as we go to the 5G era where we will connect not just people but machines, systems and platforms.”
A trillion dollar telecom industry now exists as a result of Marconi’s and Netravali’s research, Weldon estimates. It is an industry that when captured end to end includes communications and computing which creates the capacity necessary to deliver digital services in our society.
“What consumes all that capacity?” Weldon rhetorically posed. “It is Arun. Arun is everywhere.”
Weldon referenced ubiquitous digital services such as Youtube that consume bandwidth. Those services are readily deliverable to consumers because Netravali’s research discovered and developed critically required data compression--- that disruptively moved the world from analog to digital.
“Arun is in the top 10. If you did a David Letterman top 10, Arun would be in the top 10 Bell Labs people which is quite an august group,” Weldon remarked in a later interview.
Weldon sees that as high praise given that Bell Labs produced 8 Nobel Laureates, and even more, when one counts those who began at Bell Labs and left to complete their work elsewhere.
“He is right up there,” Weldon continued. “That, plus the high regard in which he is held for the collaboration, entrepreneurship and the mentorship he did at Bell Labs, makes him the top of the top.”
Marconi Society Chair and Google Vice President and Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf also addressed the Symposium audience regarding Netravali’s legacy, and later helped present the annual Marconi Prize at the gala. The Prize is given to living scientists who have made significant contributions to advancing communications through scientific discoveries and entrepreneurship.
Cerf, who is widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet” for his research on TCP/IP and internet architecture, capsulized Netravali’s legacy in the area of video technology.
“We know that Arun is the guy who really pushed digital video, Cerf said. “Digital video in the 21st Century is apparently essential to everyone. Huge amounts of video being produced by everyone and being consumed by everyone. So in a sense, in this period of the 21st century, we are living Arun’s legacy”.