Identifiability in Bilinear Inverse Problems With Applications to Subspace or Sparsity-Constrained Blind Gain and Phase Calibration

Yanjun Li, Kiryung Lee, Yoram Bresler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bilinear inverse problems (BIPs), the resolution of two vectors given their image under a bilinear mapping, arise in many applications. Without further constraints, BIPs are usually ill-posed. In practice, the properties of natural signals are exploited to solve BIPs. For example, subspace constraints or sparsity constraints are imposed to reduce the search space. These approaches have shown some success in practice. However, there are few results on uniqueness in BIPs. For most BIPs, the fundamental question of under what condition the problem admits a unique solution is yet to be answered. For example, blind gain and phase calibration (BGPC) is a structured BIP, which arises in many applications, including inverse rendering in computational relighting (albedo estimation with unknown lighting), blind phase and gain calibration in sensor array processing, and multichannel blind deconvolution (MBD). It is interesting to study the uniqueness of such problems. In this paper, we define identifiability of a BIP up to a group of transformations. We derive necessary and sufficient conditions for such identifiability, i.e., the conditions under which the solutions can be uniquely determined up to the transformation group. These conditions take the form of dividing the identifiability of the pair of unknown variables into the individual identifiability of each variable. Although verifying these individual conditions requires problem-specific procedures, this framework is universally applicable to all BIPs. Applying these results to BGPC, we derive sufficient conditions for unique recovery under several scenarios, including subspace, joint sparsity, and sparsity models. For BGPC with joint sparsity or sparsity constraints, we develop a procedure to compute the transformation groups corresponding to inherent ambiguities. We also give necessary conditions in the form of tight lower bounds on sample complexities, and demonstrate the tightness of these bounds by numerical experiments. The results for BGPC not only demonstrate the application of the proposed general framework for identifiability analysis, but are also of interest in their own right.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7779126
Pages (from-to)822-842
Number of pages21
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2017


  • Ambiguity
  • SAR autofocus
  • blind gain and phase calibration
  • equivalence class
  • inverse rendering
  • multichannel blind deconvolution
  • sensor array processing
  • transformation group
  • uniqueness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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