Distributed Parameter Estimation in Sensor Networks: Nonlinear Observation Models and Imperfect Communication

Research paper by Soummya Kar, Jose M. F. Moura, Kavita Ramanan

Indexed on: 18 May '12Published on: 18 May '12Published in: Computer Science - Multiagent Systems


The paper studies distributed static parameter (vector) estimation in sensor networks with nonlinear observation models and noisy inter-sensor communication. It introduces \emph{separably estimable} observation models that generalize the observability condition in linear centralized estimation to nonlinear distributed estimation. It studies two distributed estimation algorithms in separably estimable models, the $\mathcal{NU}$ (with its linear counterpart $\mathcal{LU}$) and the $\mathcal{NLU}$. Their update rule combines a \emph{consensus} step (where each sensor updates the state by weight averaging it with its neighbors' states) and an \emph{innovation} step (where each sensor processes its local current observation.) This makes the three algorithms of the \textit{consensus + innovations} type, very different from traditional consensus. The paper proves consistency (all sensors reach consensus almost surely and converge to the true parameter value,) efficiency, and asymptotic unbiasedness. For $\mathcal{LU}$ and $\mathcal{NU}$, it proves asymptotic normality and provides convergence rate guarantees. The three algorithms are characterized by appropriately chosen decaying weight sequences. Algorithms $\mathcal{LU}$ and $\mathcal{NU}$ are analyzed in the framework of stochastic approximation theory; algorithm $\mathcal{NLU}$ exhibits mixed time-scale behavior and biased perturbations, and its analysis requires a different approach that is developed in the paper.