Collaboration at the Qualcomm Institute Leads to New Tech to Make Your Phone Faster, Smarter, More Efficient

November 28, 2018 / By Xochitl Rojas-Rocha

Pictured: Alexander Vardy, UC San Diego

5G is often touted as a way to make phones smarter, faster and better connected to one another. Polar codes are now used in the 5G standard to enable a reliable connection between phone and network, and they contribute to a powerful user experience. When they were first discovered, however, polar codes were promising in theory, but difficult to use in practice.

Alexander Vardy, professor in electrical and computer engineering, and faculty in computer science and engineering at UC San Diego, and Ido Tal, a professor with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, have invented a new algorithm that ensures that polar codes work much more efficiently, and the link between phone and 5G stays strong. Their technology was recently licensed by Samsung.

“Polar codes are based on beautiful abstract math, without regard to applications. Yet our technology is currently being implemented in billions of 5G chipsets,” said Vardy. “It will be doubly gratifying to see this beautiful math in every phone.”

When polar codes are working at their best, using the ideas of Tal and Vardy, they can correct more errors than any other available code. With the addition of Tal and Vardy’s algorithm, smartphone users should be able to reliably download and transfer data at the highest rates possible. In fact, polar codes achieve the Shannon limit, named after Claude Shannon, who first theorized that error-correcting codes like polar codes would one day be possible.

Watch Vardy describe Shannon’s contributions to the field in this short video of Shannon engaged in a favorite past time: juggling on a unicycle.

Pictured: Ido Tal, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Tal and Vardy collaborated on their invention through a post-doctoral fellowship program at the Information Theory and Applications Center within UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute. The program was established as a way to connect up-and-coming researchers with experts in diverse fields and encourage them to work across disciplines.

“The Information Theory and Applications post-doctoral program would be of great appeal to someone who has mastered their doctoral work and is willing and wanting to learn about other spaces before they set the course for their professional career,” said Alon Orlitsky, Director of the Information Theory and Applications Center and a researcher at the Qualcomm Institute.

For a more detailed exploration of polar codes, read this article on the UC San Diego News Center website. To learn more about the Information Theory and Applications Fellowship, visit the fellowship’s webpage or watch our video about the Information Theory and Applications Center online.

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