UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Taking a Risk on Research

In a world of wireless diversity, Sujit Dey's software can adapt data 'on the fly' to improve its delivery based on the type of device and speed of the network being used.

When Sujit Dey decided to take a full leave to start a new wireless company, he did so reluctantly. The electrical and computer engineering professor didn't want to stop teaching, but otherwise, the technology might never see the light of day. "The companies that expressed interest were technology users, not technology developers," explains Dey ."After a lot of soul searching, I decided to take the risk."

Late last year, he launched Ortiva Wireless, which now employs nine people, including several Jacobs School alumni.The offices are strategically located close to campus, where Dey visits his mobile embedded systems design and test laboratory at UCSD several times a week to touch base with his graduate students and to help recruit faculty.

Most of Dey's work is based on a simple concept: the diversity of wireless technologies. "Four years ago I began to realize that wireless heterogeneity would be a gold mine for researchers," he says, noting that for the foreseeable future, different access technologies will co-exist (e.g.,Wi-Fi and 3G cellular), as will different devices (PDA, laptops etc.) and applications (e-commerce, infotainment)."Rather than looking for the next killer application, there is value in designing applications that work across many technologies, and networks that work with any device."

Dey's team began developing methods for adapting data dynamically as a function of the type of network, device and application being used, and some of those software solutions will now be commercialized by Ortiva Wireless."Our pitch to wireless carriers is that our products can increase wireless data capacity and revenues by a very healthy margin, while reducing capital and operating expenditures," says Dey. "We also provide significant advantages to content providers and aggregators—allowing them to deliver rich content across any network and device, without the need to develop and maintain network and device-specific content versions. All the above while significantly improving data quality— 50% better video, and five to ten times faster Web browsing."

The journey to commercialization began a year ago with a grant from the Jacobs School 's von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement. Subsequently, UCSD's technology transfer office, TechTIPS, worked with Dey on licensing the UC-owned technology. UC received an upfront license fee from Ortiva (courtesy of its two venture capital backers), and the university will also get a portion of all future revenues.

"The collaboration between TechTIPS and the von Liebig Center really helped to facilitate this project," said Alan Paau, assistant vice chancellor. "The teamwork of the two service units allowed UCSD to make available to professor Dey a full plate of services—from the protection and licensing of intellectual property to market validation and business formation advice."

Going forward, Dey says he will recruit a permanent CEO for his company in a few months—in plenty of time to allow him to return to teaching and research at UCSD in 2006.