The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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iCandy: Remote Control

Gadgets that reach where we can’t go, help the imperiled, and spot problems both physical and cognitive

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Photo: Xu Suhui/Xinhua/Landov
The SmartCopter ZN-2 unmanned remote-controlled helicopter, developed by the Shandong Electric Power Research Institute, is being used to inspect a 220-kilovolt electric power transmission line in Shouguang, in China’s Shandong province. One worker who helps maintain the line says the tool has cut inspection time by more than 90 percent.
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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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