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CommunicAsia 2010: Oz Team Crunches Mobile Data

SINGAPORE -- CommunicAsia 2010 -- Developers at Australia's National ICT Australia (NICTA) believe the patchy nature of 3G coverage in the U.S. could provide them with the opportunity to commercialize their data compression capabilities.

The NICTA team has developed a mobile device caching tool that compresses large amounts of data into an XML format, which can then be searched, filed, and read without having to be uncompressed. That makes it ideal for storing large amounts of data on small devices.

As an example, NICTA's Database Project Leader Dr Raymond Wong showed Light Reading three months' worth of searchable Reuters news feeds housed on his mobile phone, though the data could equally be Website content, PDF files, or any other type of storable file.

The core NICTA software, designed for the efficient download of data over a mobile connection, also includes a function that updates any chosen data feed whenever a mobile connection is available. So, to use the Reuters news example, a user can read whatever feeds have been stored on their mobile device when they're out of range of a mobile data connection (in a subway, tunnel, or any area that lacks coverage), and then get the latest feeds downloaded whenever they're reconnected to the network.

This, the NICTA team believes, makes the technology very suitable for the U.S. market, "because there are so many gaps in 3G coverage, so files can be read offline and updated when there's a connection," says Dr Terence Percival, a laboratory director at NICTA.

And to target the U.S., NICTA has forged a "technology transfer agreement" with startup Cohesive Data Inc., which has been established to "develop and commercialize" the NICTA technology. (So, turning a cache into cash, you might say.)

Cohesive Data's task is to engage with the North American carriers, which need to do all they can "to keep their high-end users happy," notes Dr Percival. (See NICTA, Cohesive Tout Compression.)

Dr Wong is one of the startup's founders, along with the fantastically named Peter Vroom [Ed note: Wasn't he in Wacky Races?] and two other entrepreneurs. NICTA has also provided unspecified seed funding to the startup.

Dr Percival says Cohesive Data is already working with one of the U.S.'s main mobile operators but declined to provide further details. Light Reading, though, believes that operator is Verizon Wireless .

NICTA has a track record in developing technology that results in commercial products and widespread deployment. Since its inception in 2002, NICTA has spun out four companies, including Open Kernel Labs , which now has its software embedded in more than 750 million devices. (See Open Kernel Gets $7.6M.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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