NEC Laboratories America


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NEC Laboratories America, Inc. (NEC Labs America), formerly known as NEC Research Institute (1988 – 2002), is the US-based center for NEC Corporation’s global network of corporate research laboratories. It was established in 1988 with the primary location in Princeton, New Jersey and subsequently, a second location in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its mission is to generate significant new knowledge and create innovative solutions for society in collaboration with industry, academia and governments.

Most research results from NEC Labs America are published in the open scientific literature. The lab leverages NEC Corporation’s 120-year history and global resources to envision technological advances. NEC Labs America is a subsidiary of the NEC Corporation of America, which is headquartered in Irving, Texas.


NEC Labs America was created through the merger of the NEC Research Institute (NECI) and the NEC C&C Research Laboratories (CCRL).[1] NECI was founded in 1988 to conduct long-term basic research in sciences underlying the computer and communications (C&C) technologies of the future.[2] Its founding board was composed of thought leaders in computing and physical sciences, including Joseph Giordmaine, C. William Gear, Stuart Solin, Peter Wolff, Robert Tarjan and Leslie Valiant, with the goal of making important contributions to the basic research community and applying their results to improve the quality of human life. CCRL was established in Oct 1991 under the leadership of Kojiro Watanabe and its Silicon Valley Office, headed by Yoshinori Hara, was established in Aug 1995. NECI and CCRL merged in 2002.

Initial research areas in the physical sciences included device physics, materials science, optical and quantum electronics, circuits and implementations of neural, optical, and other novel computer architectures. Research areas in computer science included parallel computing, software, artificial intelligence and cognitive science. During the past two decades, its focus has adapted in favor of computer science disciplines.

Research Areas

Research emphasis at NEC Labs America has evolved over time and in the current era, reflects a focus on artificial intelligence and its potential applications. Current research areas at NEC Labs America include the following:

Key People


The current president of NEC Labs America is Christopher White, who assumed the position in March 2020. The founding president of NEC Research Institute was Dawon Kahng, who served from the inception of the organization until his death in May 1992 and was succeeded by C. William Gear (1992 – 2000) and David Waltz (2000 – 2002). Previous presidents of NEC Labs America in its current form include Robert Millstein (2002 – 2005), Roger Tran (2005 – 2017) and Akihiro Uchida (2017 – 2020).


  • Robert Tarjan: A computer scientist and expert on graph algorithms, winner of the 1986 ACM Turing Award, currently distinguished professor at Princeton University and chief scientist at Intertrust Technologies.
  • Leslie Valiant: A theoretical computer scientist, winner of the 1986 Nevanlinna Prize, the 1997 Knuth Prize and the 2010 ACM Turing Award, currently professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Harvard University.
  • Joe Giordmaine: The first VP of Physical Sciences, who previously managed the Bell Labs group that originated the field of fiber optics and whose graduate research developed maser amplifiers in pursuit of microwave spectroscopy with Charlie Townes (Nobel Prize 1964).
  • Stuart Solin: A Fellow at NEC who worked on magnetoresistive materials in pursuit of higher density recording structures and subsequently became a professor of physics at Washington University, St. Louis.
  • Peter Wolff: A pioneer in semiconductor research, who subsequently led the industry forum at the physics department of MIT.
  • C. William Gear: An expert in numerical analysis, who was previously the head of the computer science department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and led NECI during 1992- 2000.
  • David Waltz: The first VP of Computer Sciences, who was an expert in computer vision and AI, subsequently joining Columbia University where he was the director of Center for Computational Learning Systems.
  • Boris Altshuler: A leading researcher in condensed matter physics, who is currently a professor of theoretical physics at Columbia University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Dirac Medal winner.
  • Ingemar Cox: Founder of the computer vision group who pioneered techniques in digital watermarking and commercialized them as CTO of the NEC spin-off Signafy, currently a professor of computer science at University College, London.

Major Achievements

  • CiteSeer: A digital library and search engine that indexes citations for scientific articles, allows ranking them by citation impact and supports queries by document attributes and citation details.[3] It was created in 1997 by NEC Labs America researchers Lee Giles, Kurt Bollacker and Steve Lawrence.
  • Fiber optic communication and sensing world records: NEC Labs America has established various world records in fiber optic communication and sensing. In 2011, a research team led by Dayou Qian and Ting Wang at NEC Labs America demonstrated the transmission of data at 101 Tbit/s through a single fiber optic core, which at the time was the world record for single fiber optic core data bandwidth.[4] In 2013, NEC Labs America and Corning Inc. demonstrated the transmission of data at 1.05 Pbit/s over a multi-core fiber optic, which at the time was a record for single fiber optic bandwidth.[5] In 2019, NEC Labs America teamed with Verizon to demonstrated the ability to use fiber optic communication and sensing over existing fiber optic telecommunication infrastructure.[6]
  • Torch: A machine learning library based on the Lua programming language that found widespread usage in deep learning. Created by NEC Labs America researcher Ronan Collobert and colleagues, it saw active development until 2018 and formed the basis for the popular PyTorch library.[7]
  • Signafy: A spin-off that commercialized digital watermarking technology developed at NEC Labs America in 1997, for protecting copyrighted content in DVDs and other multimedia.[8]
  • Vidient Systems: An NEC Labs America spin-off founded in 2004 to commercialize accurate and cost-effective behavior analysis software over networks of video cameras, which was initially deployed at major airports and public institutions in the US.[9]
  • CachePortal: A commercial solution to manage dynamic Web application content between end-users and the application, which improved user response times and application scalability through its proprietary content-mapping software architecture.[10]
  • NEC HYDRAstor: A disk-based grid storage system with several nodes integrated into a single storage pool with the HYDRAStor software, providing for data deduplication for backups and archiving, content addressable storage, data encryption and load balancing. The prototype was developed in 2004 and the latest stable version was released in 2016.
  • ePathologist: Machine learning system developed at NEC Labs America to detect tissue and cell features within these images in order to identify regions of interest and make quantitative measurements of structures, to assist pathologists in making decisions relating to the clinical treatment of cancer in individual patients. In 2011, NEC and Royal Philips Electronics signed an agreement to jointly develop and market the technology.[11]
  • System Invariant Analysis: An AI software solution launched in 2018 that visualizes a system's operational status and detects errors through the automatic modeling of behaviors or complex systems. It has been deployed in power plants, manufacturing and petrochemical industries.[12]
  • RAPID: A framework that seeks to simplify adoption and deployment of machine learning solutions for inspection applications, with a focus on enabling effective decision-making by end users.[13]
  • NEC EVA: An extensible and scalable video analytics platform capable of processing and analyzing multiple video streams both live and offline, to extract and store relevant attributes, especially for applications that require face recognition and behavior analysis.[14]
  • SENNA: Based on work led by NEC Labs America researchers Ronan Collobert, Jason Weston and co-authors, SENNA is a deep neural network architecture for natural language processing tasks such as part-of-speech tagging, chunking, named entity recognition and semantic role labeling.

Notable Alumni

  • Yann LeCun: One of the pioneers of deep learning, recipient of the 2018 ACM Turing Award, currently professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and Chief AI Scientist at Facebook.
  • Vladimir Vapnik: One of the co-developers of the Vapnik–Chervonenkis theory in machine learning, the co-inventor of support vector machines and recipient of the 2017 IEEE John von Neumann Medal.
  • Leon Bottou: An expert in machine learning, an early proponent of the stochastic gradient descent method for training and co-developer of the DjVu image compression technology.
  • David Jacobs: An expert in computer vision who developed fundamental theories for how lighting affects reconstruction and recognition of objects, currently professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.
  • Kai Yu: An expert in machine learning who headed the computer vision team at NEC Labs America, before founding the Baidu Institute of Deep Learning and subsequently Horizon Robotics, where he is now the CEO.
  • Lee Giles: An expert in information retrieval who was part of the NEC team that created the CiteSeer digital library, currently professor at Pennsylvania State University.
  • Steve Lawrence: A computer scientist who helped create the CiteSeer digital library at NEC and subsequently developed the Google Desktop.
  • Gary Flake: Led the web data-mining program at NEC, before becoming head of Yahoo! Research Labs, founding Microsoft Live Labs and most recently CTO of
  • Peter Yianilos: An expert in algorithmic linguistics, who developed early linguistic softwares including spellers, dictionaries and encyclopedias.
  • Richard Linke: The first NECI scientist, who previously worked with the Bell Labs Radio Astronomy group with Arno Penzias and Bob Wilson and is now retired as an executive director of the IEEE Photonics Society.
  • Thomas Ebbesen: A physical chemist who made fundamental contributions to the mass production of carbon nanotubes at NEC and later for surface plasmons and the discovery of extraordinary optical transmission.
  • Tom Leighton: A visiting researcher who worked on digital watermarking, before becoming a professor at MIT and co-founding Akamai Technologies where he is now the CEO, winner of the 2018 Marconi Prize and a 2017 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ Robertson, J. (2002). "NEC Merges Research Laboratories". EE Times. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Peterson, I. (1992). "New Companies Bring Research To 'Video Valley". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Wu, J.; Williams, K. M.; Chen, H.-H.; Khabsa, M.; Caragea, C.; Tuarob, S.; Ororbia, A. G.; Jordan, D.; Mitra, P.; Giles, C. L. (2015). "CiteSeerX: AI in a Digital Library Search Engine". AI Magazine. 36 (3): 35–48. doi:10.1609/aimag.v36i3.2601.
  4. ^ Nunes, D. (2013). "NEC performs world's first successful trial of real-time 1Tb/s superchannel transmission over a trans-oceanic distance". Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Peach, M. (2013). "NEC and Corning achieve petabit optical transmission". Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Schulz, K. (2019). "Verizon and NEC just made fiber sensing a whole lot easier".
  7. ^ Ronan Collobert; Samy Bengio; Johnny Marithoz (2002). "Torch: A Modular Machine Learning Software Library". CiteSeerX Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "Signafy". 1997. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Vidient Systems and NEC Enter Agreement For Worldwide Marketing, Sales and Distribution of SmartCatch Software". Business WIre. 2004. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "NEC Solutions America Introduces CachePortal to Raise Bar on Edge Caching High-Dynamic Application Content". Business WIre. 2004. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Moore, K. (2011). "Philips and NEC ink digital pathology agreement". Health Imaging. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "NEC Launches System Invariant Analysis Technology Package for AI Engines". 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Deep learning that automates factory defect inspection". Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "NEC Enhanced Video Analytics Provides Advanced Solutions for Video Analytics". NEC Technical Journal. 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links

  • NEC Laboratories America, Inc.
  • NEC R&D
  • NEC Corporation of America
  • NEC