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Signal processing is a subfield of mathematics, information and electrical engineering that concerns the analysis, synthesis, and modification of signals, which are broadly defined as functions conveying "information about the behavior or attributes of some phenomenon", such as sound, images, and biological measurements. For example, signal processing techniques are used to improve signal transmission fidelity, storage efficiency, and subjective quality, and to emphasize or detect components of interest in a measured signal.
According to Alan V. Oppenheim and Ronald W. Schafer, the principles of signal processing can be found in the classical numerical analysis techniques of the 17th century. Oppenheim and Schafer further state that the digital refinement of these techniques can be found in the digital control systems of the 1940s and 1950s.
In communication systems, signal processing may occur at:
Analog signal processing is for signals that have not been digitized, as in legacy radio, telephone, radar, and television systems. This involves linear electronic circuits as well as non-linear ones. The former are, for instance, passive filters, active filters, additive mixers, integrators and delay lines. Non-linear circuits include compandors, multiplicators (frequency mixers and voltage-controlled amplifiers), voltage-controlled filters, voltage-controlled oscillators and phase-locked loops.
Continuous-time signal processing is for signals that vary with the change of continuous domain(without considering some individual interrupted points).
The methods of signal processing include time domain, frequency domain, and complex frequency domain. This technology mainly discusses the modeling of linear time-invariant continuous system, integral of the system's zero-state response, setting up system function and the continuous time filtering of deterministic signals
Discrete-time signal processing is for sampled signals, defined only at discrete points in time, and as such are quantized in time, but not in magnitude.
Analog discrete-time signal processing is a technology based on electronic devices such as sample and hold circuits, analog time-division multiplexers, analog delay lines and analog feedback shift registers. This technology was a predecessor of digital signal processing (see below), and is still used in advanced processing of gigahertz signals.
The concept of discrete-time signal processing also refers to a theoretical discipline that establishes a mathematical basis for digital signal processing, without taking quantization error into consideration.
Digital signal processing is the processing of digitized discrete-time sampled signals. Processing is done by general-purpose computers or by digital circuits such as ASICs, field-programmable gate arrays or specialized digital signal processors (DSP chips). Typical arithmetical operations include fixed-point and floating-point, real-valued and complex-valued, multiplication and addition. Other typical operations supported by the hardware are circular buffers and lookup tables. Examples of algorithms are the Fast Fourier transform (FFT), finite impulse response (FIR) filter, Infinite impulse response (IIR) filter, and adaptive filters such as the Wiener and Kalman filters.
Nonlinear signal processing involves the analysis and processing of signals produced from nonlinear systems and can be in the time, frequency, or spatio-temporal domains. Nonlinear systems can produce highly complex behaviors including bifurcations, chaos, harmonics, and subharmonics which cannot be produced or analyzed using linear methods.
Statistical signal processing is an approach which treats signals as stochastic processes, utilizing their statistical properties to perform signal processing tasks. Statistical techniques are widely used in signal processing applications. For example, one can model the probability distribution of noise incurred when photographing an image, and construct techniques based on this model to reduce the noise in the resulting image.