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Beamforming

Beamforming or spatial filtering is a


signal processing technique used in
sensor arrays for directional signal
transmission or reception.[1][2] This is
achieved by combining elements in an
antenna array in such a way that signals at
particular angles experience constructive
interference while others experience
destructive interference. Beamforming can
be used at both the transmitting and
receiving ends in order to achieve spatial
selectivity. The improvement compared
with omnidirectional
reception/transmission is known as the
directivity of the array.

Beamforming can be used for radio or


sound waves. It has found numerous
applications in radar, sonar, seismology,
wireless communications, radio
astronomy, acoustics and biomedicine.
Adaptive beamforming is used to detect
and estimate the signal of interest at the
output of a sensor array by means of
optimal (e.g. least-squares) spatial filtering
and interference rejection.
Techniques
To change the directionality of the array
when transmitting, a beamformer controls
the phase and relative amplitude of the
signal at each transmitter, in order to
create a pattern of constructive and
destructive interference in the wavefront.
When receiving, information from different
sensors is combined in a way where the
expected pattern of radiation is
preferentially observed.

For example, in sonar, to send a sharp


pulse of underwater sound towards a ship
in the distance, simply transmitting that
sharp pulse from every sonar projector in
an array simultaneously fails because the
ship will first hear the pulse from the
speaker that happens to be nearest the
ship, then later pulses from speakers that
happen to be the further from the ship.
The beamforming technique involves
sending the pulse from each projector at
slightly different times (the projector
closest to the ship last), so that every
pulse hits the ship at exactly the same
time, producing the effect of a single
strong pulse from a single powerful
projector. The same technique can be
carried out in air using loudspeakers, or in
radar/radio using antennas.
In passive sonar, and in reception in active
sonar, the beamforming technique
involves combining delayed signals from
each hydrophone at slightly different times
(the hydrophone closest to the target will
be combined after the longest delay), so
that every signal reaches the output at
exactly the same time, making one loud
signal, as if the signal came from a single,
very sensitive hydrophone. Receive
beamforming can also be used with
microphones or radar antennas.

With narrow-band systems the time delay


is equivalent to a "phase shift", so in this
case the array of antennas, each one
shifted a slightly different amount, is
called a phased array. A narrow band
system, typical of radars, is one where the
bandwidth is only a small fraction of the
center frequency. With wide band systems
this approximation no longer holds, which
is typical in sonars.

In the receive beamformer the signal from


each antenna may be amplified by a
different "weight." Different weighting
patterns (e.g., Dolph-Chebyshev) can be
used to achieve the desired sensitivity
patterns. A main lobe is produced together
with nulls and sidelobes. As well as
controlling the main lobe width
(beamwidth) and the sidelobe levels, the
position of a null can be controlled. This is
useful to ignore noise or jammers in one
particular direction, while listening for
events in other directions. A similar result
can be obtained on transmission.

For the full mathematics on directing


beams using amplitude and phase shifts,
see the mathematical section in phased
array.

Beamforming techniques can be broadly


divided into two categories:

conventional (fixed or switched beam)


beamformers
adaptive beamformers or phased array
Desired signal maximization mode
Interference signal minimization or
cancellation mode

Conventional beamformers use a fixed set


of weightings and time-delays (or
phasings) to combine the signals from the
sensors in the array, primarily using only
information about the location of the
sensors in space and the wave directions
of interest. In contrast, adaptive
beamforming techniques (e.g., MUSIC,
SAMV) generally combine this information
with properties of the signals actually
received by the array, typically to improve
rejection of unwanted signals from other
directions. This process may be carried
out in either the time or the frequency
domain.

As the name indicates, an adaptive


beamformer is able to automatically adapt
its response to different situations. Some
criterion has to be set up to allow the
adaptation to proceed such as minimizing
the total noise output. Because of the
variation of noise with frequency, in wide
band systems it may be desirable to carry
out the process in the frequency domain.
Beamforming can be computationally
intensive. Sonar phased array has a data
rate low enough that it can be processed
in real-time in software, which is flexible
enough to transmit or receive in several
directions at once. In contrast, radar
phased array has a data rate so high that it
usually requires dedicated hardware
processing, which is hard-wired to transmit
or receive in only one direction at a time.
However, newer field programmable gate
arrays are fast enough to handle radar
data in real-time, and can be quickly re-
programmed like software, blurring the
hardware/software distinction.
Sonar beamforming
requirements
Sonar beamforming utilizes a similar
technique to electromagnetic
beamforming, but varies considerably in
implementation details. Sonar applications
vary from 1 Hz to as high as 2 MHz, and
array elements may be few and large, or
number in the hundreds yet very small.
This will shift sonar beamforming design
efforts significantly between demands of
such system components as the "front
end" (transducers, pre-amplifiers and
digitizers) and the actual beamformer
computational hardware downstream.
High frequency, focused beam, multi-
element imaging-search sonars and
acoustic cameras often implement fifth-
order spatial processing that places
strains equivalent to Aegis radar demands
on the processors.

Many sonar systems, such as on


torpedoes, are made up of arrays of up to
100 elements that must accomplish beam
steering over a 100 degree field of view
and work in both active and passive
modes.

Sonar arrays are used both actively and


passively in 1-, 2-, and 3-dimensional
arrays.

1-dimensional "line" arrays are usually in


multi-element passive systems towed
behind ships and in single- or multi-
element side-scan sonar.
2-dimensional "planar" arrays are
common in active/passive ship hull
mounted sonars and some side-scan
sonar.
3-dimensional spherical and cylindrical
arrays are used in 'sonar domes' in the
modern submarine and ships.

Sonar differs from radar in that in some


applications such as wide-area-search all
directions often need to be listened to, and
in some applications broadcast to,
simultaneously. Thus a multibeam system
is needed. In a narrowband sonar receiver
the phases for each beam can be
manipulated entirely by signal processing
software, as compared to present radar
systems that use hardware to 'listen' in a
single direction at a time.

Sonar also uses beamforming to


compensate for the significant problem of
the slower propagation speed of sound as
compared to that of electromagnetic
radiation. In side-look-sonars, the speed of
the towing system or vehicle carrying the
sonar is moving at sufficient speed to
move the sonar out of the field of the
returning sound "ping". In addition to
focusing algorithms intended to improve
reception, many side scan sonars also
employ beam steering to look forward and
backward to "catch" incoming pulses that
would have been missed by a single
sidelooking beam.

Schemes
A conventional beamformer can be a
simple beamformer also known as
delay-and-sum beamformer. All the
weights of the antenna elements can
have equal magnitudes. The
beamformer is steered to a specified
direction only by selecting appropriate
phases for each antenna. If the noise is
uncorrelated and there are no directional
interferences, the signal-to-noise ratio of
a beamformer with antennas
receiving a signal of power , (where
is Noise variance or Noise power), is:

Null-steering beamformer
Frequency domain beamformer

History in wireless
communication standards
Beamforming techniques used in cellular
phone standards have advanced through
the generations to make use of more
complex systems to achieve higher
density cells, with higher throughput.

Passive mode: (almost) non-


standardized solutions
Wideband Code Division Multiple
Access (WCDMA) supports
direction of arrival (DOA) based
beamforming [1]
Active mode: mandatory standardized
solutions
2G — Transmit antenna selection as
an elementary beamforming
3G — WCDMA: Transmit antenna
array (TxAA) beamforming
3G evolution — LTE/UMB: Multiple-
input multiple-output (MIMO)
precoding based beamforming with
partial Space-Division Multiple
Access (SDMA)
Beyond 3G (4G, 5G, …) — More
advanced beamforming solutions
to support SDMA such as closed
loop beamforming and multi-
dimensional beamforming are
expected

An increasing number of consumer


802.11ac Wi-Fi devices with MIMO
capability can support beamforming to
boost data communication rates.[3]

Digital, analog, and hybrid


For receive (but not transmit), there is a
distinction between analog and digital
beamforming. For example, if there are
100 sensor elements, the "digital
beamforming" approach entails that each
of the 100 signals passes through an
analog-to-digital converter to create 100
digital data streams. Then these data
streams are added up digitally, with
appropriate scale-factors or phase-shifts,
to get the composite signals. By contrast,
the "analog beamforming" approach
entails taking the 100 analog signals,
scaling or phase-shifting them using
analog methods, summing them, and then
usually digitizing the single output data
stream.

Digital beamforming has the advantage


that the digital data streams (100 in this
example) can be manipulated and
combined in many possible ways in
parallel, to get many different output
signals in parallel. The signals from every
direction can be measured simultaneously,
and the signals can be integrated for a
longer time when studying far-off objects
and simultaneously integrated for a
shorter time to study fast-moving close
objects, and so on.[4] This cannot be done
as effectively for analog beamforming, not
only because each parallel signal
combination requires its own circuitry, but
more fundamentally because digital data
can be copied perfectly but analog data
cannot. (There is only so much analog
power available, and amplification adds
noise.) Therefore, if the received analog
signal is split up and sent into a large
number of different signal combination
circuits, it can reduce the signal-to-noise
ratio of each.
In MIMO communication systems with
large number of antennas, so called
massive MIMO systems, the beamforming
algorithms executed at the digital
baseband can get very complex.[1] In
addition, if all beamforming is done at
baseband, each antenna needs its own RF
feed. At high frequencies and with large
number of antenna elements, this can be
very costly, increase loss and complexity
in the system. To remedy these issues,
hybrid beamforming has been suggested
where some of the beamforming is done
using analog components and not digital.
There are many possible different
functions that can be performed using
analog components instead of at the
digital baseband.[5][6][7]

For speech audio


Beamforming can be used to try to extract
sound sources in a room, such as multiple
speakers in the cocktail party problem.
This requires the locations of the speakers
to be known in advance, for example by
using the time of arrival from the sources
to mics in the array, and inferring the
locations from the distances.
Compared to carrier-wave
telecommunications, natural audio
contains a variety of frequencies. It is
advantageous to separate frequency
bands prior to beamforming because
different frequencies have different
optimal beamform filters (and hence can
be treated as separate problems, in
parallel, and then recombined afterward).
Properly isolating these bands involves
specialized non-standard filter banks. In
contrast, for example, the standard FFT
band-filters implicitly assume that the only
frequencies present in the signal are exact
harmonics; frequencies which lie between
these harmonics will typically activate all
of the FFT channels (which is not what is
wanted in a beamform analysis). Instead,
filters can be designed in which only local
frequencies are detected by each channel
(while retaining the recombination
property to be able to reconstruct the
original signal), and these are typically
non-orthogonal unlike the FFT basis.

See also
Beamforming solutions

3d beamforming
Aperture synthesis
Inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR)
Phased array antennas, which uses
beamforming to steer the beam
Sonar, side-scan sonar
Synthetic aperture radar
Synthetic aperture sonar
Thinned array curse
Window function
Synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM)
Microphone array
Zero-forcing precoding
Multibeam echosounder
Pencil (optics)
Periodogram
MUSIC
SAMV

Related issues

MIMO
Spatial multiplexing
Antenna diversity
Channel state information
Space–time code
Space–time block code
Precoding
Dirty paper coding (DPC)
Smart antennas
Space-division multiple access
WSDMA (Wideband Space Division
Multiple Access)
Golomb ruler
Audio Surveillance
Reconfigurable antenna
Sensor array

References
1. Golbon-Haghighi, M. H. (2016).
Beamforming in Wireless Networks (PDF).
InTech Open. pp. 163–199.
doi:10.5772/66.399 .
ISBN 9781466557529.
2. Van Veen, B. D.; Buckley, K. M. (1988).
"Beamforming: A versatile approach to
spatial filtering" (PDF). IEEE ASSP
Magazine. 5 (2): 4. doi:10.1109/53.665 .
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-
11-22.
3. Geier, Eric. "All about beamforming, the
faster Wi-Fi you didn't know you needed" .
PC World. IDG Consumer & SMB. Retrieved
19 October 2015.
4. Systems Aspects of Digital Beam
Forming Ubiquitous Radar, Merrill Skolnik,
2002, [1]
5. "Hybrid analog-digital downlink
beamforming for massive MIMO system
with uniform and non-uniform linear
arrays"
6. "Analog beamsteering for flexible hybrid
beamforming design in mmwave
communications"
7. "Hybrid Beamforming in mm-Wave MIMO
Systems Having a Finite Input Alphabet"
General
Louay M. A. Jalloul and Sam. P. Alex,
"Evaluation Methodology and Performance of
an IEEE 802.16e System", Presented to the
IEEE Communications and Signal Processing
Society, Orange County Joint Chapter
(ComSig), December 7, 2006. Available at:
https://web.archive.org/web/201104141438
01/http://chapters.comsoc.org/comsig/meet
.html
H. L. Van Trees, Optimum Array Processing,
Wiley, NY, 2002.
Jian Li, and Petre Stoica, eds. Robust
adaptive beamforming. New Jersey: John
Wiley, 2006.
M. Soltanalian. Signal Design for Active
Sensing and Communications . Uppsala
Dissertations from the Faculty of Science
and Technology (printed by Elanders Sverige
AB), 2014.
"A Primer on Digital Beamforming" by Toby
Haynes, March 26, 1998
"What Is Beamforming?" , an introduction to
sonar beamforming by Greg Allen.
"Two Decades of Array Signal Processing
Research" by Hamid Krim and Mats Viberg
in IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, July
1996
"Dolph–Chebyshev Weights" antenna-
theory.com
A collection of pages providing a simple
introduction to microphone array
beamforming
"Beamforming Narrowband and Broadband
Signals" by John E. Piper in Sonar Systems,
InTech, Sept. 2011

External links
Animation of beam steering using
phased arrays on YouTube
MU-MIMO Beamforming by Constructive
Interference , Wolfram Demonstrations
Project

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