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Joan L. Mitchell image compression innovator to receive IEEE award

Press release from the issuing company

Piscataway, N.J. – Joan L. Mitchell, a leading developer of image compression methods that have impacted consumer electronics and Internet communications by enabling faster printing and transmission of images, is being honored by IEEE with the 2011 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award. IEEE is the world's largest technical professional association.

The award, sponsored by Sony Corporation, recognizes Mitchell for fundamental contributions to image compression in printing technology and digital image processing in consumer electronics. The award will be presented on 11 January 2011 at the IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics in Las Vegas, Nev.

Anyone who surfs the Internet, prints a color photograph or sends a fax has likely benefitted from Mitchell's contributions to image compression technology. Image compression involves minimizing the size of a file, such as a photograph or video, without significantly degrading the quality of the image. This increases transmission and processing rates when viewing images over the Internet. It also allows for increased storage capacity for digital cameras. Mitchell's emphasis on making sure standards and techniques were sound for not only the hardware but also the software achieved her goal of making images smaller and transmission faster. The result of her work has been consumer devices that cost less and can do more than otherwise possible.

During the 1980s, Mitchell was one of the key contributors to the JPEG (Joint Photographic  Experts Group) algorithm for photographic image compression as well as some of the MPEG (Motion Picture Expert Group) standards for video. Working at IBM with William B. Pennebaker, Mitchell helped fine tune the JPEG standard into something that was practical for software. The pair served as co-editors of the JPEG standard and helped define many of the extensions that made it a flexible tool for image compression. Mitchell and Pennebaker also co-authored the text JPEG Still Image Data Compression Standard (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993), which serves as the definitive reference for JPEG.

During the late 1990s and through 2000 decade, Mitchell was instrumental in solving throughput bottlenecks affecting IBM high-end printers. Her algorithms for halftoning, binary compression and image compression improved by a factor of 6 the JPEG decoding on IBM's embedded 401 processor. This enabled for the first time full-color page decoding for JPEG at rated speeds.

Mitchell's contributions to file compression began during the 1970s with a technique for fax machines. Her two-dimensional image data compression and decompression system served as the foundation for the compression standards used in fax machines. Her fast decompression code also migrated into other IBM products, resulting in a successful video conferencing system. The system could display facsimile images and provide up and down scaling and 90-degree rotations.

An IEEE Fellow, Mitchell is an IBM Fellow and member of the American Physical Society, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, the IBM Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. Her honors include the Leadership Award from the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium and the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumni Service Award. She received her bachelor's degree in physics from Stanford University, Calif., and her master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana. She began her career at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., in 1974. She retired from InfoPrint Solutions Co., Boulder, Colo., in 2009, where she was an InfoPrint Fellow. She resides in Modesto, Calif.


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