Harnessing interference for analog function computation in wireless sensor networks

Mario Goldenbaum, Holger Boche, Slawomir Stanczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


It is known that if the objective of a wireless sensor network is not to reconstruct individual sensor readings at a fusion center but rather to compute a linear function of them, then the interference property of the wireless channel can be beneficially harnessed by letting nodes transmit simultaneously. Recently, an analog computation scheme was proposed to show that it is possible to take the advantage of the interference property even if nonlinear functions are to be computed. The scheme involves some pre-processing on the sensor readings and post-processing on the superimposed signals observed by the fusion center. Correspondingly, this paper provides a thorough base for a theory of analog-computing functions over wireless channels by specifying what is the maximum achievable. This means it is determined for networks of arbitrary topology which functions are generally analog-computable over the channel and how many wireless resources are needed. It turns out that the considerations are closely related to the famous 13th Hilbert problem and that analog-computations can be universally performed in the sense that the pre-processing at sensor nodes is independent of the function to be computed. Universality reduces the complexity of transmitters and the signaling overhead, and it is shown that this property is preserved if nodes leave or join the network. Analog-computability is therefore of high practical relevance as it allows for an efficient computation of functions in sensor networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6557530
Pages (from-to)4893-4906
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2013


  • 13th Hilbert problem
  • Computation over multiple-access channels
  • Pre- and post-processing
  • Wireless sensor networks


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