Leonardo: who I am, what I did so far and what I plan to do next

I have written this article because I thought that, at this particular juncture, it would be useful to tell more about myself. I assume I am not unknown to quite a few people, but I think that it could be useful to put in a succinct form some information that summarises the responses to the who and what in the title.

Not that such information is “hidden”. Over the years I did spend some time to document some of the endeavours I happened to be part of or initiated or managed. Although a little out of style, https://www.chiariglione.org/ can be taken as the starting point of a navigation, in particular my web page and Riding the Media Bits.

Leonardo, the man

I am an Italian citizen by birth and a convinced supporter of the vision of a united Europe since my high scool days. However, I like to think I am a citizen of the world. I live in Villar Dora, province of Turin. Google maps provides a view of my house with a glimpse of the vineyard surrounding it. Originally, the house was the summer house of my grandfather, a farmer. At that time all farmer houses in town had a vineyard grown to produce grapes to make wine. There are still some farmers in town, but no one is left with a vineyard. While I am no farmer, I still produce some wine for my consumption.

I am father of three kids who have left the nest some time ago. My kids have 3 children, two girls and one boy.

Leonardo’s education

I graduated in Electronic Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Turin. At that time Italy had just one academic degree, equivalent to today’s Master’s degree. Before my graduation, I applied for a Japanese government scholarship, then went to Japan and got a Doctor’s degree in Electrical Communication from the University of Tokyo. I am told I was the first Caucasian to get a Doctor’s degree from the University.

Leonardo’s work experiences

CSELT, at the time the research centre of what is called today TIM-Telecom Italia, hired me to do research in video coding for visual telephony. When I left the company in 2003, I was Director of the Multimedia Division with 30+ researchers. Throughout my career at CSELT, I was involved at different levels of responsibility – leader, participant or manager of resources – in some 60 collaborative research projects, mostly at European level. This table provides an overview of all the research projects I was involved in.

Since 2003 I am the CEO of CEDEO.net, a technology company in Turin developing advanced services and products. The main services are WimTV and Stream4U. The main product is TVBridge, based on MPEG-A’s Multimedia Linking Application Format. The main product under development is DNASearch, based on the MPEG-G standard. Since 2011, I am also the CEO of WimLabs, a sister company of CEDEO.net focused on the commercialisation of products developed and the provision of services enabled by CEDEO.net. The WimLabs website provides an overview of all products and services commercialised by WimLabs.

Leonardo’s standards experiences

Over the years I participated in various standards committees. At the European level I joined CEPT committees (before ETSI was established) and then the ETSI JTC where I helped to create the path for acceptance of the MPEG-2 standard in Europe, before DVB had even started.

At the international level, I joined ITU-T and ITU-R committees. In particular I joined the first few meetings of the Okubo group who developed H.261 recommendtaion. I attended ITU-R meetings especially to promote adoption of the MPEG-2 standard. I was/am the Head of the Italian Delegation to JTC 1, SC 2 and SC 29. I attended JTC 1 meetings on several occasions, starting from the time I lobbied to convince SC 2 and then JTC 1 to create SC 29. I am the Chairman of the Italian SC 29 committee.

I founded and held the rapporteur role of the Moving Picture Experts Group of SC 2/WG 8 (1988-90) and the convenor role of SC 29/WG 11 (1990-) under SC 2 and then SC 29.

I founded and chaired DAVIC – Digital Audio-Visual Council (1994-95), FIPA – Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents (1996-1988), OPIMA – Open Platform Initiative for Multimedia Access (1997- 1999) and DMP – Digital Media Project (2003-2015). I was also the Executive Director of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (1999-2001), an industry forum with the mission to develop specifications for secure digital music delivery.

Leonardo’s academic experiences

These are my academic experiences

  1. In 1986 I founded the International Workshop on HDTV which I chaired until 1994. I was the editor of all Proceedings of the HDTV Workshop until 1994.
  2. In 1989 I founded and was the Editor-in-Chief of Signal Processing – Image Communication, a EURASIP journal, until 1999.
  3. In 2004-2005 I was Professor at the Information and Communication University in Daejeon, Korea.
  4. In 2011 I was the Editor of the book The MPEG Representation of Digital Media published by Springer Science.
  5. I have organised a total of 18 conferences related to digital media, including one Picture Coding Symposium and one Packet Video Workshop,
  6. I have written some 200 technical and strategy papers, mostly invited, some submitted to technical journals and some delivered at conferences.

In 2002 I received the Doctorate “honoris causa” from Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon) and the EURASIP Meritorious Service Award. I am Chevalier de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres (France) since 2003 and Membre de l’Académies des technologies (France) since 2008.

Leonardo’s awards

I have received several awards (the text of the awards can be found here):

  1. the Information and Communication Society of Japan Award (1995)
  2. the International Institute of Communications Award (1997)
  3. the Society of Photo-Optical and Instrumentation Engineers Award (1998)
  4. the Kilby Foundation Award (1998)
  5. the IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award (1999)
  6. the IBC John Tucker Award (1999)
  7. the Edward-Rhein Foundation Award (1999)
  8. the SMPTE James Leitch Gold Medal Award (2002)
  9. the NAB Award of Honor (2003)
  10. the Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award (2018).

I am Honorary member of SMPTE since 2014.

Leonardo’s vision

In 1986, when the CCIR failed to approve the HDTV recommendation, I called the technical and business world and established the International Workshop on HDTV. I chaired the Workshop until 1994. The Workshop attracted hundreds of participants and acted as a technical forum that enabled eventual convergence of diverse regional views on the next form of television experience.

In 1987 I proposed the creation of an experts group on moving picture coding. The original idea was stimulated by my years of research in video coding and telecom standardisation that did not have an impact on the market. I tried to find a way to make available video communication end device by blending the manufacturing capability of the consumer electronics industry with the infrastructure of the telecom industry and the content offer of the broadcasting industry. All this crossing what were at the time strong industry barriers. In 1988 this idea became the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Today MPEG has become the established source of digital media standards that have caused industry convergence and made digital media available to billions of people. MPEG has received several Emmy Awards.

In 1994 I launched the Digital Audio-Visual Council (DAVIC), an industry forum with the mission to promote the success of emerging digital audio-visual applications and services, by the timely availability of internationally agreed specifications of open interfaces and protocols that maximise interoperability across countries and applications/services. DAVIC reached a membership of more than 200 companies and developed two editions of its comprehensive specifications that were transposed to ISO/IEC standards (the ISO/IEC 16500 suite).

In 1996 I launched the Foundation for Intelligent Physical Agents (FIPA), a non-profit organisation with the mission to promote the development of specifications of generic agent technologies that maximise interoperability within and across agent-based applications. FIPA developed 2 editions of its specifications. An open source software implementation of the FIPA specification (JADE), developed by one of my collaborators at CSELT, is used in several application domains.

In 2003 I launched the Digital Media Project (DMP), a not-for-profit organisation with the mission to promote continuing successful development, deployment and use of Digital Media that respect the rights of creators and rights holders to exploit their works, the wish of end users to fully enjoy the benefits of digital media and the interests of various value-chain players to provide products and services. DMP developed 3 editions of its specifications which were implemented in open source software (Chillout). DMP members proposed and made major contributions to MPEG-A’s Media Streaming Application Format (ISO/IEC 23000-5) and to MPEG-M suite of standards (ISO/IEC 23006).

Leonardo’s challenges

I see my next challenges in two domains: in my companies and in standardisation.

The challenges for my companies are to make WimTV the natural choice for those who want to do business with video on the web, TVBridge the normal way for broadcasters to augment their viewers’ experience and DNASearch the indispensable companion of all humans following their lives from cradle to grave.

I am sure that I can meet the challenge because I can rely on the support of my family and CEDEO personnel.

My challenges in standardisation are to:

  1. Uphold the role of MPEG as the unmastered and non-discriminatory source of digital media standards
  2. Expand the use of MPEG standards to insufficiently reached market areas
  3. Keep MPEG constantly abreast of technology and market development
  4. Develop standards in emerging fields of MPEG’s traditional media domain
  5. Collaborate with other committees by developing joint standards when mutually convenient
  6. Cultivate new and enhanced relationships with industry, MPEG client industries and academia
  7. Enhance the MPEG image and standing across the industry
  8. Reach out to other domains for which data compression may be a business booster
  9. Establish an ongoing process to assess MPEG’s relevance in fulfilling its mission
  10. Defend the MPEG business model by adapting it to changing conditions
  11. Define and establish a management-level succession process based on community preferences.

I am sure these standardisation challenges can be met. My confidence comes from the fact that MPEG is a large organisation that relies on the best and most dedicated experts a standards committee can hope to attract, has a solid organisational structure, enjoys an excellent reputation, and boast a universally known brand and loyal following both in academy and industry.

MPEG Future has published a vision that includes standardisation goals and an assessment of MPEG’s organisational capabilities. Industry is actively reacting to MPEG Future’s vision.

Yes, there will be challenges. There have always been challenges in the last 32 years. The next may be the biggest ever, but I think I know how to face them, as a group.

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