I spoke with Qualcomm (QCOM) Inc. co-founder Andrew Viterbi on Tuesday, just moments after he was named one of four finalists for the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize. In this exclusive video interview for Tech Confidential's Behind the Money, Viterbi talks about his work as a communications pioneer, including his involvement in commercializing the Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA, mobile phone standard--and about the communications companies he invests in as president of venture capital firm Viterbi Group LLC.
Asked to name the communications technologies he's most excited about today, Viterbi points to radio frequency identification, or RFID. Viterbi Group backs several RFID companies, including Impinj Inc., a fabless semiconductor company that has raised more than $110 million since its founding in May 2000, and Provigent, a provider of "system-on-a-chip" technology for broadband wireless transmission, which earlier this month added $4 million to its fourth round to close with $20 million.
Viterbi's groundbreaking mathematical formula for eliminating signal interference, known as the Viterbi Algorithm, was one of four innovations shortlisted for this year's Millennium Technology Prize, which carries a nearly $2 million award for the winner. The formula is used today in all four international standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space telemetry. Viterbi's interest in communications began as a child, when his family fled Italy for America in 1939 to escape persecution of Jews. Long absences from family members instilled a desire to find ways of communicating across political and geographical borders.
Worth a total of about $1.8 million, the biannual Millennium Technology Prize, which is given by the Technology Academy Finland and honors "technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life," is the world's monetary prize for technology. The first winner was Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web. The 2006 winner was Shuji Nakamura, inventor of efficient lighting technology. The winner of the 2008 prize will be announced at a ceremony in Finland on June 11. -- Mary Kathleen Flynn
Click here for more information about the prize, this year's other finalists and past winners