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

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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A Gallery of Cyclic Correlations

There are some situations in which the spectral correlation function is not the preferred measure of (second-order) cyclostationarity. In these situations, the cyclic autocorrelation (non-conjugate and conjugate versions) may be much simpler to estimate and work with in terms of detector, classifier, and estimator structures. So in this post, I’m going to provide plots of the cyclic autocorrelation for each of the signals in the spectral correlation gallery post. The exceptions are those signals I called feature-rich in the spectral correlation gallery post, such as LTE and radar. Recall that such signals possess a large number of cycle frequencies, and plotting their three-dimensional spectral correlation surface is not helpful as it is difficult to interpret with the human eye. So for the cycle-frequency patterns of feature-rich signals, we’ll rely on the stem-style (cyclic-domain profile) plots in the gallery post.

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CSP Estimators: The FFT Accumulation Method

Let’s look at another spectral correlation function estimator: the FFT Accumulation Method (FAM). This estimator is in the time-smoothing category, is exhaustive in that it is designed to compute estimates of the spectral correlation function over its entire principal domain, and is efficient, so that it is a competitor to the Strip Spectral Correlation Analyzer (SSCA) method. I implemented my version of the FAM by using the paper by Roberts et al (The Literature [R4]). If you follow the equations closely, you can successfully implement the estimator from that paper. The tricky part, as with the SSCA, is correctly associating the outputs of the coded equations to their proper \displaystyle (f, \alpha) values.

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‘Can a Machine Learn the Fourier Transform?’ Redux, Plus Relevant Comments on a Machine-Learning Paper by M. Kulin et al.

I first considered whether a machine (neural network) could learn the (64-point, complex-valued)  Fourier transform in this post. I used MATLAB’s Neural Network Toolbox and I failed to get good learning results because I did not properly set the machine’s hyperparameters. A kind reader named Vito Dantona provided a comment to that original post that contained good hyperparameter selections, and I’m going to report the new results here in this post.

Since the Fourier transform is linear, the machine should be set up to do linear processing. It can’t just figure that out for itself. Once I used Vito’s suggested hyperparameters to force the machine to be linear, the results became much better:

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CSP Patent: Tunneling

My colleague Dr. Apurva Mody (of BAE Systems, IEEE 802.22, and the WhiteSpace Alliance) and I have received a patent on a CSP-related invention we call tunneling. The US Patent is 9,755,869 and you can read it here or download it here. We’ve got a journal paper in review and a 2013 MILCOM conference paper (My Papers [38]) that discuss and illustrate the involved ideas. I’m also working on a CSP Blog post on the topic.

Update December 28, 2017: Our Tunneling journal paper has been accepted for publication in the journal IEEE Transactions on Cognitive Communications and Networking. You can download the pre-publication version here.

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Automatic Spectral Segmentation

In this post, I discuss a signal-processing algorithm that has almost nothing to do with cyclostationary signal processing. Almost. The topic is automated spectral segmentation, which I also call band-of-interest (BOI) detection. When attempting to perform automatic radio-frequency scene analysis (RFSA), we may be confronted with a data block that contains multiple signals in a large number of distinct frequency subbands. Moreover, these signals may be turning on an off within the data block. To apply our cyclostationary signal processing tools effectively, we would like to isolate these signals in time and frequency to the greatest extent possible using linear time-invariant filtering (for separating in the frequency dimension) and time-gating (for separating in the time dimension). Then the isolated signal components can be processed serially.

It is very important to remember that even perfect spectral and temporal segmentation will not solve the cochannel-signal problem. It is perfectly possible that an isolated subband will contain more that one cochannel signal.

The basics of my BOI-detection approach are published in a 2007 conference paper (My Papers [32]). I’ll describe this basic approach, illustrate it with examples relevant to RFSA, and also provide a few extensions of interest, including one that relates to cyclostationary signal processing.

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Cyclostationarity of Direct-Sequence Spread-Spectrum Signals

In this post we look at direct-sequence spread-spectrum (DSSS) signals, which can be usefully modeled as a kind of PSK signal. DSSS signals are used in a variety of real-world situations, including the familiar CDMA and WCDMA signals, covert signaling, and GPS. My colleague Antonio Napolitano has done some work on a large class of DSSS signals (The Literature [R11, R17, R95]), resulting in formulas for their spectral correlation functions, and I’ve made some remarks about their cyclostationary properties myself here and there (My Papers [16]).

A good thing, from the point of view of modulation recognition, about DSSS signals is that they are easily distinguished from other PSK and QAM signals by their spectral correlation functions. Whereas most PSK/QAM signals have only a single non-conjugate cycle frequency, and no conjugate cycle frequencies, DSSS signals have many non-conjugate cycle frequencies and in some cases also have many conjugate cycle frequencies.

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Cumulant (4, 2) is a Good Discriminator? Comments on “Energy-Efficient Processor for Blind Signal Classification in Cognitive Radio Networks,” by E. Rebeiz et al.

Let’s talk about another published paper on signal detection involving cyclostationarity and/or cumulants. This one is called “Energy-Efficient Processor for Blind Signal Classification in Cognitive Radio Networks,” (The Literature [R69]), and is authored by UCLA researchers E. Rebeiz and four colleagues.

My focus on this paper it its idea that broad signal-type classes, such as direct-sequence spread-spectrum (DSSS), QAM, and OFDM can be reliably distinguished by the use of a single number: the fourth-order cumulant with two conjugated terms. This kind of cumulant is referred to as the (4, 2) cumulant here at the CSP Blog, and in the paper, because the order is n=4 and the number of conjugated terms is m=2.

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Machine Learning and Modulation Recognition: Comments on “Convolutional Radio Modulation Recognition Networks” by T. O’Shea, J. Corgan, and T. Clancy

In this post I provide some comments on another paper I’ve seen on arxiv.org (I have also received copies of it through email) that relates to modulation classification and cyclostationary signal processing. The paper is by O’Shea et al and is called “Convolutional Radio Modulation Recognition Networks.” You can find it at this link.

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Modulation Recognition Using Cyclic Cumulants, Part I: Problem Description and Variants

In this post, we start a discussion of what I consider the ultimate application of the theory of cyclostationary signals: Automatic Modulation Recognition. My relevant papers are My Papers [16,17,25,26,28,30,32,33,38,43,44].

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The Cycle Detectors

Let’s take a look at a class of signal-presence detectors that exploit cyclostationarity and in doing so illustrate the good things that can happen with CSP whenever cochannel interference is present, or noise models deviate from simple additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN). I’m referring to the cycle detectors, the first CSP algorithms I ever studied.

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Radio-Frequency Scene Analysis

So why do I obsess over cyclostationary signals and cyclostationary signal processing? What’s the big deal, in the end? In this post I discuss my view of the ultimate use of cyclostationary signal processing (CSP): Radio-Frequency Scene Analysis (RFSA). Eventually, I hope to create a kind of Star Trek Tricorder for RFSA.

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CSP-Based Time-Difference-of-Arrival Estimation

Let’s discuss an application of cyclostationary signal processing (CSP): time-delay estimation. The idea is that sampled data is available from two antennas (sensors), and there is a common signal component in each data set. The signal component in one data set is the time-delayed or time-advanced version of the component in the other set. This can happen when a plane-wave radio frequency (RF) signal propagates and impinges on the two antennas. In such a case, the RF signal arrives at the sensors with a time difference proportional to the distance between the sensors along the direction of propagation, and so the time-delay estimation is also commonly referred to as time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA) estimation.

tdoa_physical_setup

Consider the diagram shown to the right. A distant transmitter emits a signal that is well-modeled as a plane wave once it reaches our two receivers. An individual wavefront of the signal arrives at the two sensors at different times.

The line segment AB is perpendicular to the direction of propagation for the RF signal. The angle \theta is called the angle of arrival (AOA). If we could estimate the AOA, we can tell the direction from which the signal arrives, which could be useful in a variety of settings. Since the triangle ABC is a right triangle, we have

\displaystyle \cos (\theta) = \frac{x}{d}. \hfill (1)

When \theta = 0, the wavefronts first strike receiver 2, then must propagate over x meters before striking receiver 1. On the other hand, when \theta = 90^\circ, each wavefront strikes the two receivers simultaneously. In the former case, the TDOA is maximum, and in the latter it is zero. The TDOA can be negative too, so that 180^\circ azimuthal degrees can be determined by estimating the TDOA.

In general, the wavefront must traverse x meters between striking receiver 2 and striking receiver 1,

\displaystyle x = d \cos(\theta). \hfill (2)

Assuming the speed of propagation is c meters/sec, the TDOA is given by

\displaystyle D = \frac{x}{c} = \frac{d\cos{\theta}}{c} \mbox{\rm \ \ seconds}. \hfill (3)

In this post I’ll review several methods of TDOA estimation, some of which employ CSP and some of which do not. We’ll see some of the advantages and disadvantages of the various classes of methods through inspection, simulation, and application to collected data.

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Square-Root Raised-Cosine PSK/QAM

Let’s look at a somewhat more realistic textbook signal: The PSK/QAM signal with independent and identically distributed symbols (IID) and a square-root raised-cosine (SRRC) pulse function. The SRRC pulse is used in many practical systems and in many theoretical and simulation studies. In this post, we’ll look at how the free parameter of the pulse function, called the roll-off parameter or excess bandwidth parameter, affects the power spectrum and the spectral correlation function.

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A Gallery of Spectral Correlation

In this post I provide plots of the spectral correlation for a variety of simulated textbook signals and several collected communication signals. The plots show the variety of cycle-frequency patterns that arise from the disparate approaches to digital communication signaling. The distinguishability of these patterns, combined with the inability to distinguish based on the power spectrum, leads to a powerful set of classification (modulation recognition) features (My Papers [16, 25, 26, 28]).

In all cases, the cycle frequencies are blindly estimated by the strip spectral correlation analyzer (The Literature [R3, R4]) and the estimates used by the FSM to compute the spectral correlation function. MATLAB is then used to plot the magnitude of the spectral correlation and conjugate spectral correlation, as specified by the determined non-conjugate and conjugate cycle frequencies.

There are three categories of signal types in this gallery: textbook signals, collected signals, and feature-rich signals. The latter comprises some collected signals (e.g., LTE) and some simulated radar signals. For the first two signal categories, the three-dimensional surface plots I’ve been using will suffice for illustrating the cycle-frequency patterns and the behavior of the spectral correlation function over frequency. But for the last category, the number of cycle frequencies is so large that the three-dimensional surface is difficult to interpret–it is a visual mess. For these signals, I’ll plot the maximum spectral correlation magnitude over spectral frequency f versus the detected cycle frequency \alpha (as in this post).

A complementary gallery of cyclic autocorrelation functions can be found here.

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Textbook Signals

What good is having a blog if you can’t offer a rant every once in a while? In this post I talk about what I call textbook signals, which are mathematical models of communication signals that are used by many researchers in statistical signal processing for communications.

We’ve already encountered, and used frequently, the most common textbook signal of all: rectangular-pulse BPSK with independent and identically distributed (IID) bits. We’ve been using this signal to illustrate the cyclostationary signal processing concepts and estimators as they have been introduced. It’s a good choice from the point of view of consistency of all the posts and it is easy to generate and to understand. However, it is not a good choice from the perspective of realism. It is rare to encounter a textbook BPSK signal in the practice of signal processing for communications.

I use the term textbook because the textbook signals can be found in standard textbooks, such as Proakis (The Literature [R44]). Textbook signals stand in opposition to signals used in the world, such as OFDM in LTE, slotted GMSK in GSM, 8PAM VSB with synchronization bits in ATSC-DTV, etc.

Typical communication signals combine a textbook signal with an access mechanism to yield the final physical-layer signal–the signal that is actually transmitted (My Papers [11], [16]). What is important for us, here on the CSP blog, is that this combination usually results in a signal with radically different cyclostationarity than the textbook component. So it is not enough to understand textbook signals’ cyclostationarity. We must also understand the cyclostationarity of the real-world signal, which may be sufficiently complex to render mathematical modeling and analysis impossible (at least for me).

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