The Network Coding and Reliable Communications Group, Professor Muriel Medard


Can machine learning trump theory in communication system design?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018, 1PM, 36-428

Andrea Goldsmith
Stanford University

Design and analysis of communication systems have traditionally relied on mathematical and statistical channel models that describe how a signal is corrupted during transmission. In particular, communication techniques such as modulation, coding and detection that mitigate performance degradation due to channel impairments are based on such channel models and, in some cases, instantaneous channel state information about the model. However, there are propagation environments where this approach does not work well because the underlying physical channel is too complicated, poorly understood, or rapidly time-varying. In these scenarios we propose a completely new approach to communication system design based on machine learning (ML). In this approach, the design of a particular component of the communication system (e.g. the coding strategy or the detection algorithm) utilizes tools from ML to learn and refine the design directly from training data. The training data that is used in this ML approach can be generated through models, simulations, or field measurements. We present results for three communication design problems where the ML approach results in better performance than current state-of-the-art techniques: signal detection without accurate channel state information, signal detection without a mathematical channel model, and joint source-channel coding of text. Broader application of ML to communication system design in general and to millimeter wave and molecular communication systems in particular is also discussed.

Joint work with Nariman Farsad