Signal Procssing in the Information Age

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Persistent real-time, multi-sensor, multi-modal surveillance capabilities will be at the core of the future operating environment for the Ministry of Defence; such techniques will also be a core technology in modern society. In addition to traditional physics-based sensors, such as radar, sonar, and electro-optic, 'human sensors', e.g. from phones, analyst reports, social media, will provide new valuable signals and information that could advance situational awareness, information superiority, and autonomy. Transforming and processing this broad range of data into actionable information that meets these requirements presents many new challenges to existing sensor signal processing techniques.

In a future where a large-scale deployment of multi-modal, multi-source sensors will be distributed across a range of environments, new signal processing techniques are required. It is therefore timely to consider the fundamental questions of scalability, adaptability, and resource management of multi-source data, when dealing with data that is high-volume, high-velocity, from non-traditional sources, and with high uncertainty.

The UDRC Phase 3 project, Signal Processing in an Information Age is an ambitious initiative that brings together internationally leading experts from 5 leading centres for signal processing, data science and machine learning with 10 industry partners. Led by the Institute of Digital Communications at the University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the School of Informatics at Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, University of Strathclyde and Queen's University Belfast. This multi-disciplinary consortium brings together unique expertise in sensing, processing and machine learning from across these research centres. The consortium has been involved in defence signal processing research through the UDRC phases 1 & 2, the MOD's Centre for Defence Enterprise, and the US Office of Naval Research. The team have significant experience in technology transfer, including: tracking and surveillance (Dstl), advanced radar processing (Leonardo, SEA); broadband beamforming (Thales); automotive Lidar and radar systems (ST Microelectronics, Jaguar Land Rover), and deep learning face recognition for security (AnyVision).

This project will investigate fundamental mathematical signal and data processing techniques that will underpin future technologies required in the future operating environment. We will develop the underpinning inference algorithms to provide actionable information, that are computationally efficient, scalable, and multi-dimensional, and incorporate non-conventional and heterogeneous information sources. We will investigate multi-objective resource management of dynamic sensor networks that include both physical and human sensors. We will also use powerful machine learning techniques, including deep learning, to enable faster and robust learning of new tasks, anomalies, threats, and opportunities, relevant to operational security.

Planned Impact

It has long been recognized that information superiority is a key goal in any conflict, and thus the Ministry of Defence aspires to a future capability of persistent real-time, multi-sensor, multi-modal sensing. Furthermore, in future operations, physical sensors will be augmented with non-physical sources of information, including, 'human sensors' and sources from the internet. There will also be a continued growth in the amount and variety of data acquired. Transforming this data into actionable information will help meet the requirements for improved situational awareness, information superiority, and autonomy. However, this necessitates new fundamental signal and information processing techniques that are: scalable, distributed, adaptable, and can simultaneously exploit data from a wide range and variety of sources. The research in this project aims to develop such underpinning techniques, hence providing an important operational advantage to our armed forces.

The primary beneficiaries of this research naturally include the stakeholders in defence sensing and information processing, from industry and government to the end users in the armed forces. As the proposed research aims to work closely with the UK defence industries there is also likely to be a significant economic benefit. A successful project will translate into greater technology pull-through of the research into the commercial sector and will help UK defence companies remain at the leading edge in the international defence market.

Furthermore, many of the defence challenges to be addressed in this project can also be found in different guises in new emerging technologies in modern society, such as: autonomous vehicles, smart cities and other highly sensorized environments. The proposed research is therefore likely to impact these broader domains, from robotics and security to medicine.


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