The history behind TCTS Lab

The Circuit Theory and Signal Processing Lab (TCTS) of the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons is the result of a recent and important evolution of technologies toward signal processing techniques. Initially created by Prof. Boite and devoted to the analysis and synthesis of analog circuits, the lab evolved as early as the seventies toward digital processing techniques, mostly by studying digital filters. The evolution of its research activities has naturally led it to investigate many areas of signal processing, among which speech processing, bio-medical engineering, and optical character recognition.

During the eighties, the TCTS lab has participated to inter-university collaborations for research on speech processing financially supported by the Belgian governmental organisation I.R.S.I.A., and has maintained its research activity with internal fund.

Industrial partnerships with telecommunication companies have been initiated in parallel. A telephone line testing systems was developed in collaboration with SAIT Electronics (Brussels) for the Belgian Ministry of Public Work, which maintains a telephone network associated with Belgian highways. Our partnership with SAIT Electronics has then led us to participate to the development of the communication system of the European spacecraft HERMES (study of noise cancellation systems to maintain voice communication at take-off), as well as to the conception of low bit rate speech coders for marine communication (in the framework of IMMARSAT). Studies on speech recognition and speech synthesis have been initiated simultaneously, in collaboration with RUG (university of Ghent, Belgium), KUL (university of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium), Phillips and ATEA. Two PhD dissertations have followed : one on speech synthesis of French texts, and the other on isolated words, speaker-independent speech recognition.

Our research activity on speech processing has then been developed with internal fund, leading to a PhD on high quality text-to-speech synthesis of French (1993).

We have also acted as experts in speaker identification and speaker recognition for forensic investigations between 1989 and 1992.

Thanks to a new financial support from SAIT Electronics, a PhD on low bit rate vector quantisation of speech was published in 1994. The same year, the TCTS lab participated, in collaboration with ACEC Transport (Charleroi) to the development of a security system for the new generation of TGV trains. We also realised a speech recognition system for the Belgian television channel BRT, in collaboration with LERNOUT & HAUSPIE (Yper), and another one for DAPHNE (Charleroi), to be used to test phone banking systems. Our partnership with LERNOUT & HAUSPIE was then extended to speech coding and speech recognition, leading to a PhD on low bit rate speech coding (1994). From 1992 to 1995, we have participated to the ESPRIT HIMARNNET project, devoted to isolated word, speaker independent speech recognition over telephone lines. The participants to this project were : LERNOUT & HAUSPIE, ASCOM Sues, TEDAS audio systems, and two universities : Faculté Polytechnique de Mons and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Prof. H. Leich, who is now the director of the lab, was the project coordinator.

In parallel, we have taken part from 1994 to 2000 in an ARC (action de recherche concertée) in the area of text-to-speech synthesis, funded by the Fonds Francophone de la Recherche, and devoted to the automatic testing of French TTS systems, in collaboration with : K-U-Leuven, Université de Lausanne, Université de Genève, INRS - Telecom, Institut de la Communication parlée, LIMSI.

From 1995 to 2000, we have received important funds from the Ministère de la Region Wallone and the EC in the framework of the Objective 1 programme, to develop research projects aimed to develop telecommunications services in two directions : telephone and multimedia applications. Eleven persons have been employed on these projects. A parallel research group has been created in the Telecommunications lab of the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons.

At the end of 1999, these two groups have merged into a single organization, called MULTITEL, which has acquired a statute of independent research institute, in the form of a non-profit making organization, with the long term goal of beeing capable to be self-financed. This constitutes at the same time an exciting challenge and a guarantee, for the companies, of the professionalism of the R&D work performed at MULTITEL.

From 1995 to 1999, Multitel helped about a hundred companies to various degrees, from the simple training of staff to the realization of prototypes for innovating products.

On the basis of first R&D results of research and of the knowledge gained by the university teams, a spin-off called "BABEL Technologies" was created in 1997 to develop the activities in the speech signal processing domain. This company currently occupies about ten people and a broad expansion of its activities is considered for the four future years, mainly internationally.

In the same spirit, a start-up called "IT-OPTICS" was created in 2000, and specializes in telecommunication network management products, with an emphasis on LINUX-based solutions.

On the basis of the achievements it has reached during the 5 past years, Multitel received important funding for the years 2000-2005, for a new group of projects aimed at consolidating the research results of the centre, in the framework of the Phasing Out of the Objectif 1 program of the EC.

Professors and researchers affiliated with the university (TCTS Lab) now work in close collaboration with the members of the R&D staff of MULTITEL.

Extra - professional activities ...
See also the ANC1005 home page, which serves as a memory for the extra-professional activities developed by the research staff of the lab.

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