Some Concrete Results on Generalization in Modulation Recognition using Machine Learning

Neural networks with I/Q data as input do not generalize in the modulation-recognition problem setting.

Update May 20, 2022: Here is the link.

Back in 2018 I posted a dataset consisting of 112,000 I/Q data files, 32,768 samples in length each, as a part of a challenge to machine learners who had been making strong claims of superiority over signal processing in the area of automatic modulation recognition. One part of the challenge was modulation recognition involving eight digital modulation types, and the other was estimating the carrier frequency offset. That dataset is described here, and I’d like to refer to it as CSPB.ML.2018.

Then in 2022 I posted a companion dataset to CSPB.ML.2018 called CSPB.ML.2022. This new dataset uses the same eight modulation types, similar ranges of SNR, pulse type, and symbol rate, but the random variable that governs the carrier frequency offset is different with respect to the random variable in CSPB.ML.2018. The purpose of the CSPB.ML.2022 dataset is to facilitate studies of the dataset-shift, or generalization, problem in machine learning.

Throughout the past couple of years I’ve been working with some graduate students and a professor at Old Dominion University on merging machine learning and signal processing for problems involving RF signal analysis, such as modulation recognition. We are starting to publish a sequence of papers that describe our efforts. I briefly describe the results of one such paper, My Papers [51], in this post.

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Wow, Elsevier, Just … Wow. Comments On “Cyclic Correntropy: Properties and the Application in Symbol Rate Estimation Under Alpha-Stable Distributed Noise,” by S. Luan et al.

Can we fix peer review in engineering by some form of payment to reviewers?

Let’s talk about another paper about cyclostationarity and correntropy. I’ve critically reviewed two previously, which you can find here and here. When you look at the correntropy as applied to a cyclostationary signal, you get something called cyclic correntropy, which is not particularly useful except if you don’t understand regular cyclostationarity and some aspects of garden-variety signal processing. Then it looks great.

But this isn’t a post that primarily takes the authors of a paper to task, although it does do that. I want to tell the tale to get us thinking about what ‘peer’ could mean, these days, in ‘peer-reviewed paper.’ How do we get the best peers to review our papers?

Let’s take a look at The Literature [R173].

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Update on J. Antoni’s Fast Spectral Correlation Estimator

Let’s take a look at an even faster spectral correlation function estimator. How useful is it for CSP applications in communications?

Reader Gideon pointed out that Antoni had published a paper a year after the paper that I considered in my first Antoni post. This newer paper, The Literature [R172], promises a faster fast spectral correlation estimator, and it delivers on that according to the analysis in the paper. However, I think the faster fast spectral correlation estimator is just as limited as the slower fast spectral correlation estimator when considered in the context of communication-signal processing.

And, to be fair, Antoni doesn’t often consider the context of communication-signal processing. His favored application is fault detection in mechanical systems with rotating parts. But I still don’t think the way he compares his fast and faster estimators to conventional estimators is fair. The reason is that his estimators are both severely limited in the maximum cycle frequency that can be processed, relative to the maximum cycle frequency that is possible.

Let’s take a look.

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Shifted Dataset for the Machine-Learning Challenge: How Well Does a Modulation-Recognition DNN Generalize? [Dataset CSPB.ML.2022]

Another RF-signal dataset to help push along our R&D on modulation recognition.

In this post I provide a second dataset for the Machine-Learning Challenge I issued in 2018 (CSPB.ML.2018). This dataset is similar to the original dataset, but possesses a key difference in that the probability distribution of the carrier-frequency offset parameter, viewed as a random variable, is not the same, but is still realistic.

Blog Note: By WordPress’ count, this is the 100th post on the CSP Blog. Together with a handful of pages (like My Papers and The Literature), these hundred posts have resulted in about 250,000 page views. That’s an average of 2,500 page views per post. However, the variance of the per-post pageviews is quite large. The most popular is The Spectral Correlation Function (> 16,000) while the post More on Pure and Impure Sinewaves, from the same era, has only 316 views. A big Thanks to all my readers!!

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The Principal Domain for the Spectral Correlation Function

What are the ranges of spectral frequency and cycle frequency that we need to consider in a discrete-time/discrete-frequency setting for CSP?

Let’s talk about that diamond-shaped region in the (f, \alpha) plane we so often see associated with CSP. I’m talking about the principal domain for the discrete-time/discrete-frequency spectral correlation function. Where does it come from? Why do we care? When does it come up?

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J. Antoni’s Fast Spectral Correlation Estimator

The Fast Spectral Correlation estimator is a quick way to find small cycle frequencies. However, its restrictions render it inferior to estimators like the SSCA and FAM.

In this post we take a look at an alternative CSP estimator created by J. Antoni et al (The Literature [R152]). The paper describing the estimator can be found here, and you can get some corresponding MATLAB code, posted by the authors, here if you have a Mathworks account.

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SPTK (and CSP): Random Processes

The merging of conventional probability theory with signal theory leads to random processes, also known as stochastic processes. The ideas involved with random processes are central to cyclostationary signal processing.

Previous SPTK Post: Examples of Random Variables Next SPTK Post: The Sampling Theorem

In this Signal Processing ToolKit post, I provide an introduction to the concept and use of random processes (also called stochastic processes). This is my perspective on random processes, so although I’ll introduce and use the conventional concepts of stationarity and ergodicity, I’ll end up focusing on the differences between stationary and cyclostationary random processes. The goal is to illustrate those differences with informative graphics and videos; to build intuition in the reader about how the cyclostationarity property comes about, and about how the property relates to the more abstract mathematical object of a random process on one hand and to the concrete data-centric signal on the other.

So … this is the first SPTK post that is also a CSP post.

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Desultory CSP: More Signals from

More real-world data files from The range of spectral correlation function types exhibited by man-made RF signals is vast.

Let’s look at a few more signals posted to Just for fun.

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Zero-Padding in Spectral Correlation Estimators

Why does zero-padding help in various estimators of the spectral correlation and spectral coherence functions?

Update to the exchange: May 7, 2021. May 14, 2021.

Reader Clint posed a great question about zero-padding in the frequency-smoothing method (FSM) of spectral correlation function estimation. The question prompted some pondering on my part, and I went ahead and did some experiments with the FSM to illustrate my response to Clint. The exchange with Clint (ongoing!) was deep and detailed enough that I thought it deserved to be seen by other CSP-Blog readers. One of the problems with developing material, or refining explanations, in the Comments sections of the CSP Blog is that these sections are not nearly as visible in the navigation tools featured on the Blog as are the Posts and Pages.

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Cyclostationarity of DMR Signals

Let’s take a brief look at the cyclostationarity of a captured DMR signal. It’s more complicated than one might think.

In this post I look at the cyclostationarity of a digital mobile radio (DMR) signal empirically. That is, I have a captured DMR signal from, and I apply blind CSP to it to determine its cycle frequencies and spectral correlation function. The signal is arranged in frames or slots, with gaps between successive slots, so there is the chance that we’ll see cyclostationarity due to the on-burst (or on-frame) signaling and cyclostationarity due to the framing itself.

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Are Probability Density Functions “Engineered” or “Hand-Crafted” Features?

The Machine Learners think that their “feature engineering” (rooting around in voluminous data) is the same as “features” in mathematically derived signal-processing algorithms. I take a lighthearted look.

One of the things the machine learners never tire of saying is that their neural-network approach to classification is superior to previous methods because, in part, those older methods use hand-crafted features. They put it in different ways, but somewhere in the introductory section of a machine-learning modulation-recognition paper (ML/MR), you’ll likely see the claim. You can look through the ML/MR papers I’ve cited in The Literature ([R133]-[R146]) if you are curious, but I’ll extract a couple here just to illustrate the idea.

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Stationary Signal Models Versus Cyclostationary Signal Models

What happens when a cyclostationary time-series is treated as if it were stationary?

In this post let’s consider the difference between modeling a communication signal as stationary or as cyclostationary.

There are two contexts for this kind of issue. The first is when someone recognizes that a particular signal model is cyclostationary, and then takes some action to render it stationary (sometimes called ‘stationarizing the signal’). They then proceed with their analysis or algorithm development using the stationary signal model. The second context is when someone applies stationary-signal processing to a cyclostationary signal model, either without knowing that the signal is cyclostationary, or perhaps knowing but not caring.

At the center of this topic is the difference between the mathematical object known as a random process (or stochastic process) and the mathematical object that is a single infinite-time function (or signal or time-series).

A related paper is The Literature [R68], which discusses the pitfalls of applying tools meant for stationary signals to the samples of cyclostationary signals.

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All BPSK Signals

An analysis of DeepSig’s 2016.10A data set, used in many published machine-learning papers, and detailed comments on quite a few of those papers.

Update March 2021

See my analyses of three other DeepSig datasets here, here, and here.

Update June 2020

I’ll be adding new papers to this post as I find them. At the end of the original post there is a sequence of date-labeled updates that briefly describe the relevant aspects of the newly found papers. Some machine-learning modulation-recognition papers deserve their own post, so check back at the CSP Blog from time-to-time for “Comments On …” posts.

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Symmetries of Higher-Order Temporal Probabilistic Parameters in CSP

What are the unique parts of the multidimensional cyclic moments and cyclic cumulants?

In this post, we continue our study of the symmetries of CSP parameters. The second-order parameters–spectral correlation and cyclic correlation–are covered in detail in the companion post, including the symmetries for ‘auto’ and ‘cross’ versions of those parameters.

Here we tackle the generalizations of cyclic correlation: cyclic temporal moments and cumulants. We’ll deal with the generalization of the spectral correlation function, the  cyclic polyspectra, in a subsequent post. It is reasonable to me to focus first on the higher-order temporal parameters, because I consider the temporal parameters to be much more useful in practice than the spectral parameters.

This topic is somewhat harder and more abstract than the second-order topic, but perhaps there are bigger payoffs in algorithm development for exploiting symmetries in higher-order parameters than in second-order parameters because the parameters are multidimensional. So it could be worthwhile to sally forth.

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Symmetries of Second-Order Probabilistic Parameters in CSP

Do we need to consider all cycle frequencies, both positive and negative? Do we need to consider all delays and frequencies in our second-order CSP parameters?

As you progress through the various stages of learning CSP (intimidation, frustration, elucidation, puzzlement, and finally smooth operation), the symmetries of the various functions come up over and over again. Exploiting symmetries can result in lower computational costs, quicker debugging, and easier mathematical development.

What exactly do we mean by ‘symmetries of parameters?’ I’m talking primarily about the evenness or oddness of the time-domain functions in the delay \tau and cycle frequency \alpha variables and of the frequency-domain functions in the spectral frequency f and cycle frequency \alpha variables. Or a generalized version of evenness/oddness, such as f(-x) = g(x), where f(x) and g(x) are closely related functions. We have to consider the non-conjugate and conjugate functions separately, and we’ll also consider both the auto and cross versions of the parameters. We’ll look at higher-order cyclic moments and cumulants in a future post.

You can use this post as a resource for mathematical development because I present the symmetry equations. But also each symmetry result is illustrated using estimated parameters via the frequency smoothing method (FSM) of spectral correlation function estimation. The time-domain parameters are obtained from the inverse transforms of the FSM parameters. So you can also use this post as an extension of the second-order verification guide to ensure that your estimator works for a wide variety of input parameters.

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The Ambiguity Function and the Cyclic Autocorrelation Function: Are They the Same Thing?

To-may-to, to-mah-to?

Let’s talk about ambiguity and correlation. The ambiguity function is a core component of radar signal processing practice and theory. The autocorrelation function and the cyclic autocorrelation function, are key elements of generic signal processing and cyclostationary signal processing, respectively. Ambiguity and correlation both apply a quadratic functional to the data or signal of interest, and they both weight that quadratic functional by a complex exponential (sine wave) prior to integration or summation.

Are they the same thing? Well, my answer is both yes and no.

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CSP Resources: The Ultimate Guides to Cyclostationary Random Processes by Professor Napolitano

My friend and colleague Antonio Napolitano has just published a new book on cyclostationary signals and cyclostationary signal processing:

Cyclostationary Processes and Time Series: Theory, Applications, and Generalizations, Academic Press/Elsevier, 2020, ISBN: 978-0-08-102708-0. The book is a comprehensive guide to the structure of cyclostationary random processes and signals, and it also provides pointers to the literature on many different applications. The book is mathematical in nature; use it to deepen your understanding of the underlying mathematics that make CSP possible.

You can check out the book on using the following link:

Cyclostationary Processes and Time Series

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On Impulsive Noise, CSP, and Correntropy

And I still don’t understand how a random variable with infinite variance can be a good model for anything physical. So there.

I’ve seen several published and pre-published ( technical papers over the past couple of years on the topic of cyclic correntropy (The Literature [R123-R127]). I first criticized such a paper ([R123]) here, but the substance of that review was about my problems with the presented mathematics, not impulsive noise and its effects on CSP. Since the papers keep coming, apparently, I’m going to put down some thoughts on impulsive noise and some evidence regarding simple means of mitigation in the context of CSP. Preview: I don’t think we need to go to the trouble of investigating cyclic correntropy as a means of salvaging CSP from the evil clutches of impulsive noise.

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On The Shoulders

What modest academic success I’ve had in the area of cyclostationary signal theory and cyclostationary signal processing is largely due to the patient mentorship of my doctoral adviser, William (Bill) Gardner, and the fact that I was able to build on an excellent foundation put in place by Gardner, his advisor Lewis Franks, and key Gardner students such as William (Bill) Brown.

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Simple Synchronization Using CSP

Using CSP to find the exact values of symbol rate, carrier frequency offset, symbol-clock phase, and carrier phase for PSK/QAM signals.

In this post I discuss the use of cyclostationary signal processing applied to communication-signal synchronization problems. First, just what are synchronization problems? Synchronize and synchronization have multiple meanings, but the meaning of synchronize that is relevant here is something like:

syn·chro·nize: To cause to occur or operate with exact coincidence in time or rate

If we have an analog amplitude-modulated (AM) signal (such as voice AM used in the AM broadcast bands) at a receiver we want to remove the effects of the carrier sine wave, resulting in an output that is only the original voice or music message. If we have a digital signal such as binary phase-shift keying (BPSK), we want to remove the effects of the carrier but also sample the message signal at the correct instants to optimally recover the transmitted bit sequence. 

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