Integral transforms covariant to unitary operators and their implications for joint signal representations

Akbar M. Sayeed, Douglas L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fundamental to the theory of joint signal representations is the idea of associating a variable, such as time or frequency, with an operator, a concept borrowed from quantum mechanics. Each variable can be associated with a Hermitian operator, or equivalently and consistently, as we show, with a parameterized unitary operator. It is well known that the eigenfunctions of the unitary operator define a signal representation which is invariant to the effect of the unitary operator on the signal, and is hence useful when such changes in the signal are to be ignored. However, for detection or estimation of such changes, a signal representation covariant to them is needed. Using well-known results in functional analysis, we show that there always exists a translationally covariant representation; that is, an application of the operator produces a corresponding translation in the representation. This is a generalization of a recent result in which a transform covariant to dilations is presented. Using Stone's theorem, the "covariant" transform naturally leads to the definition of another, unique, dual parameterized unitary operator. This notion of duality, which we make precise, has important implications for joint distributions of arbitrary variables and their interpretation. In particular, joint distributions of dual variables are structurally equivalent to Cohen's class of time-frequency representations, and our development shows that, for two variables, the Hermitian and unitary operator correspondences can be used consistently and interchangeably if and only if the variables are dual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1365-1377
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Signal Processing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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