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Monday, April 16, 2001

This DSP arrests bad audio & video quality

Those interested in pursuing a career in DSP shall gain major experience by working in the industry itself. However, there are some institutes that provides certificate course in this discipline. Both the beginners as well as the working executives can join these courses prior to entering the DSP industry, says Sumesh Raizada

EVERYDAY we come across news of advanced digital equipment being developed for numerous applications and utilities. Cellular phones with video facility, MP3 players, and computer modems are some of the products that are making our task more efficient and simple. Continuous research and development is going on in the field of digital technology to improve sound and picture output of electronic equipments.

Digital signal processing or DSP is one such area in which companies are investing a lot to bring out quality products. It involves design of IC chips and hardware for a certain digital application, to develop software tools for these chips and application to suit the designed chip and hardware. DSP technology and programming require high logical and analytical skills. Those who are research-oriented with interest in mathematics stand a fair chance of succeeding in this career.

Since Indian education system produce graduates in mathematics, computers and engineering in large numbers, companies like Texas Instrument and Lucent, have set up their manufacturing base in India. These multinationals are designing software and IC chips for application in DSP industry where hardware manufacturers and electronic companies are coming out with products like hearing aid, TV sets, CD players, monitors with sophisticated sound and picture quality. Leading firms like Intel, Motorola, Bharat Electronics, BPL India Ltd, Nokia and Samsung are employing qualified IT and engineering professionals for developing microprocessors, software and hardware in DSP.


Many of the next generation products and applications like VoIP, voice recognition and PDA are all based upon the fundamentals of the DSP. Professionals work to bring out devices that can help in speech and voice recognition in noise environments. Once developed a person can recognise the speech transmitted over telephone or communicate conveniently while driving a car through a busy highway. Cell phones or audio/video communication through the Internet is made possible only because of this technology. Almost all equipments that are being used today in our daily life say TV, computer monitors, fax machines, answering machine, CD players, are all based upon semi-conductor devices and microprocessors developed through DSP techniques. DSP is applied successfully in radar signal processing, tomography, underwater acoustic source localisation.

Research activities are going on to reduce noise and echo from the voice to make output more clear and better thus making transmission efficient, reliable and secure. DSP also helps in optimising bandwidth by maintaining good quality of signals. The multimedia effects in the Web application or hi-tech movies made with the help of computers make use of DSP techniques. Research is going on at a fast pace to develop a digital language translator in which chips shall code and decode a language into another thereby helping people who move to new countries or area.
We may soon find VoATM, in which voice communication shall be possible through ATM machines. Recently, MTNL has started payment of telephone bills through automated machines, which is also a wonderful invention of the DSP in which microprocessors have been programmed to perform the pre-designated tasks. In medical electronics, the DSP has helped in developing personalised hearing correction devices.

In India, besides Texas Instrument, which has its R&D base at Bangalore, there are several other companies that are developing software for digital signal processors for manufacturing firms in India and abroad. Firms like Wipro, Nuntius Systems (India) Pvt. Ltd. are working on DSP consulting projects for clients in the USA and other countries. Career opportunity exists for professionals, who work with the microprocessors manufacturing companies in their R&D, production or quality control departments. Vacancy also exists for programmers for developing software to suit a specific digital application.

Those interested in pursuing a career in DSP shall gain major experience by working in the industry itself. However, there are some institutes that provides certificate course in this discipline. Both the beginners as well as the working executives can join these courses prior to entering the DSP industry. Qualification required for a DSP professional changes depending upon the job profile. In some areas interested candidate may be a simple mathematics graduate with diploma in computer programming while in other advanced applications they need to be MCA, computer or electronics engineer. Proficiency in C ++ and assembly level programming is necessary. A DSP professional should also be able to understand signal processing algorithms, real time programming and time constraints. Most of the time these professional are required to work under limited resources and time bound schedules to develop DSP applications. They should be project oriented and be capable of working in team environment.

The salaries in DSP industry may vary from company to company and depends upon the nature of project or the client company in which the professionals undertake projects. Usually the earnings start from Rs.2 lakh per annum upwards. These may reach much higher within a short span of time. In the USA, the remuneration may be between $ 10,000 to 50,000 per annum.

The DSP professionals work as modelling engineers, test engineers, team leader, in microprocessor design and manufacturing companies or DSP software design firms. As a modelling engineer / engineer, a person should have experience in Verilog, assembly hardware modelling and I/O devices. They should be aware of detection and speech coders, cable and wireless communication. As a senior engineer a person should be experienced in design, development and coding of DSP algorithms for real time applications. They must be able to work on C++ and assembly languages, test/validate the developed programs and be able to implement them successfully for specific applications. Experience in algorithmic simulation in tools like MATLAB, SPW is a must. Those with nearly six to seven years of experience in design, development and technical leadership in digital signal processing can work as team leader. Strong leadership skills and positive personality is must for all positions.

Many electrical, communication and electronics engineering courses broadly cover a curriculum on DSP. However there are certain certificate courses conducted by foreign universities also. In India, IITs as well as IIS, Bangalore, conduct regular programs on DSP. The certificate programs are designed to teach fundamentals of the DSP and its applications. The curriculum includes important tools, skills and software required for design and implementation of telecommunication networks. Exposure is given on design and implementation of the DSP algorithms on computers and signal processing hardware. Students are trained on principles of digital image and video processing, fundamentals of imaging appliances like scanners, digital cameras and DVDs. They are made aware of the techniques to design as well as understand programs and then implement those in real time environment with the help of DSP microprocessor.

The Texas Instrument (TI) conducts university training program on DSP for those interested in research and training. In the USA most of the leading engineering institutes offer TI-based curriculum on DSP. Students get opportunity to learn through latest software, hardware and in advanced research laboratories. Besides those who excel get an opportunity to work with TI. Delhi Institute of Technology has an advanced and sophisticated laboratory for conducting research in integrated circuits and signal processing.

Successful students also get absorbed in leading DSP companies like Cadence, SGS Thomson, Siemens, etc, in their research lab or manufacturing units. Other software companies are HCL, Tata Consultancy Service, Hughes Software Systems.

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