Signal Processing/Kalman Filtering

The Kalman filter keeps track of the estimated state of the system and the variance or uncertainty of the estimate. The estimate is updated using a state transition model and measurements. {\displaystyle {\hat {x}}_{k\mid k-1}} {\hat {x}}_{k\mid k-1} denotes the estimate of the system's state at time step k before the k-th measurement yk has been taken into account; {\displaystyle P_{k\mid k-1}} {\displaystyle P_{k\mid k-1}} is the corresponding uncertainty. Kalman filtering, also known as linear quadratic estimation (LQE), is an algorithm that uses a series of measurements observed over time, containing statistical noise and other inaccuracies, and produces estimates of unknown variables that tend to be more accurate than those based on a single measurement alone, by estimating a joint probability distribution over the variables for each timeframe. The filter is named after Rudolf E. Kálmán, one of the primary developers of its theory.

The Kalman filter has numerous applications in technology. A common application is for guidance, navigation, and control of vehicles, particularly aircraft and spacecraft.[1] Furthermore, the Kalman filter is a widely applied concept in time series analysis used in fields such as signal processing and econometrics. Kalman filters also are one of the main topics in the field of robotic motion planning and control, and they are sometimes included in trajectory optimization. The Kalman filter also works for modeling the central nervous system's control of movement. Due to the time delay between issuing motor commands and receiving sensory feedback, use of the Kalman filter supports a realistic model for making estimates of the current state of the motor system and issuing updated commands.

The algorithm works in a two-step process. In the prediction step, the Kalman filter produces estimates of the current state variables, along with their uncertainties. Once the outcome of the next measurement (necessarily corrupted with some amount of error, including random noise) is observed, these estimates are updated using a weighted average, with more weight being given to estimates with higher certainty. The algorithm is recursive. It can run in real time, using only the present input measurements and the previously calculated state and its uncertainty matrix; no additional past information is required.

Using a Kalman filter does not assume that the errors are Gaussian.[3] However, the filter yields the exact conditional probability estimate in the special case that all errors are Gaussian.

Extensions and generalizations to the method have also been developed, such as the extended Kalman filter and the unscented Kalman filter which work on nonlinear systems. The underlying model is similar to a hidden Markov model except that the state space of the latent variables is continuous and all latent and observed variables have Gaussian distributions.


  1. Kalman filter on Wikipedia