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Data Fusion

Updated on March 1, 2024
Article byGayatri Ailani
Edited byShreeya Jain
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Data Fusion?

Data fusion, also known as information fusion, is the process of integrating and combining data from multiple sources to produce a more accurate, comprehensive, and valuable representation of a particular phenomenon. The goal of data fusion is to improve the overall quality, reliability, and relevance of the information gathered.

Data Fusion

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Data fusion aims to extract maximum value from available data by leveraging the strengths of different sources. And hence it creates a more comprehensive and accurate representation of the underlying reality. Moreover, it enables better decision-making, improves situational awareness, and supports various applications across domains where accurate and reliable data is crucial.

Key Takeaways

  • Data fusion refers to the combination of data from multiple sources to create a more complete representation of the underlying phenomenon.
  • It aims to provide a more accurate, comprehensive, and useful perspective by leveraging the strengths and complementary aspects of different data sources.
  • Moreover, these provide a more robust foundation for decision-making. It incorporates multiple perspectives and insights, leading to better-informed and more effective decision-making processes.
  • Hence, it is widely used in various domains, including defense, intelligence, environmental monitoring, healthcare, finance, and more.

Data Fusion Explained

Data fusion involves steps and techniques to integrate and combine data from multiple sources. The data sources can include sensors, databases, and other information repositories. The process may change depending on the application and data types involved, but generally, it follows these common steps:

  • Data pre-processing: In this step, we prepare and transform raw data from different sources into a standardized format. This is done by performing tasks such as cleaning, normalizing, scaling, and removing outliers or errors. Thus, it may include data cleaning, normalization, scaling, and removing outliers.
  • Feature extraction: In this step, we extract relevant features or attributes from the preprocessed data. Feature extraction aims to identify and capture the data’s most informative aspects relevant to the fusion task. Therefore, this could involve statistical techniques, signal processing algorithms, or domain-specific knowledge to extract meaningful features.
  • Data integration: Once the features are extracted, the data from different sources are combined into a unified dataset. Thus, integration methods depend on the nature of the data. Additionally, for numerical data, one can use fusion techniques like weighted averaging, statistical methods, or regression models.
  • Fusion algorithm selection: An appropriate fusion algorithm or technique is selected based on the specific fusion task and the desired output. It may involve statistical methods, machine learning algorithms, or rule-based approaches.
  • Decision-making or analysis: Once the data from multiple sources are merged using the chosen fusion algorithm, the resulting fused data is used for decision-making or analysis.

Furthermore, global data fusion is particularly relevant in fields such as global security and environmental monitoring. In addition, cognitive data fusion aims to monitor the performance of industrial assets, optimize maintenance schedules, and improve overall asset reliability. Thus, it merges data from multiple sources aims to overcome the limitations and weaknesses of individual sources.

Techniques

Data fusion techniques play a crucial role in extracting meaningful insights from multiple sources of information. These techniques are commonly categorized into three primary categories:

#1 – Data Association

Goal: Determining which sensor measurements correspond to which targets in a multi-target environment.

Challenges:

  • Discrete sensor observations at varying time intervals.
  • Potential sensor dropouts or missed observations.
  • Uncertainty regarding the number of observations generated by each target at each time interval.

Example: A radar system tracking multiple aircraft in a crowded airspace must accurately associate each radar return with the correct aircraft.

#2 – State Estimation

Goal: Estimating the state of a target (position, velocity, size, etc.) based on available observations or measurements.

Key techniques:

  • Kalman filter (for linear dynamics and Gaussian noise).
  • Particle filter (for nonlinear dynamics or non-Gaussian noise).
  • Distributed Kalman filters and particle filters (for multi-sensor systems).

Example: A self-driving car fuses data from cameras, radar, and lidar to estimate the positions and velocities of surrounding vehicles and pedestrians, enabling safe navigation.

#3 – Decision Fusion

Goal: Making high-level inferences and decisions based on fused information, often involving symbolic reasoning and uncertainty management.

Examples:

  • Determining the threat level of a detected object in a military context.
  • Assessing the risk of a financial investment based on diverse market data.

#4 – Additional Insights

  • Data fusion techniques often operate within the Joint Directors of Laboratories(JDL) data fusion model, which categorizes fusion processes into levels from pre-processing (level 0) to mission management (level 6).
  • State estimation techniques typically fall under level 1 (object assessment) of the JDL model.
  • Effective data fusion requires careful consideration of sensor characteristics, noise models, target dynamics, and the desired level of inference or decision-making.

Examples

Let us look at the data fusion examples to understand the concept better-

Example #1

Let’s consider a hypothetical example of data fusion in the context of smart transportation. Imagine an intelligent city that aims to optimize traffic flow and reduce congestion. The city collects data from various sources, including traffic cameras, vehicle GPS devices, and weather sensors.

Through data fusion, the city combines data from various sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of the traffic situation. The fusion process involves preprocessing the raw data, extracting relevant features such as vehicle speeds, traffic density, and weather conditions, and integrating the data into a unified dataset.

Furthermore, the fused data is analyzed using statistical methods and machine learning algorithms to identify traffic patterns, predict congestion hotspots, and generate real-time traffic updates. Hence, by combining the precise location information from GPS devices, the visual data from traffic cameras, and the environmental data from weather sensors, the city can accurately detect traffic incidents, adjust traffic signal timings, and suggest optimal routes for drivers.

Example #2

The Space Development Agency (SDA) Tranche 1 Tracking Layer contract is for constellation-wide sensor data fusion and related support. It selected Numerica Corporation, a provider of advanced air and missile defense systems, to deliver data fusion capabilities to L3Harris Technologies.

L3Harris was selected by SDA as a prime for its Tranche 1 Tracking Layer satellite program, which is a component of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture’s first Missile Warning/Missile Tracking warfighting capability. The Tranche 1 monitoring layer will provide limited global warnings, cautions, and monitoring of conventional and complex missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems.

Benefits

The data fusion approach offers several benefits across various domains and applications. Some of the key advantages of include:

  • Improved Accuracy: By combining data from multiple sources, data fusion can enhance the accuracy and reliability of the information. Hence, it mitigates individual data sources’ limitations, errors, or biases, resulting in a more accurate representation of the underlying phenomenon or system.
  • Increased Completeness: Data fusion integrates data from diverse sources, filling in gaps and providing a more comprehensive view of the subject. Therefore, it ensures that a broader range of relevant information is considered, leading to a more complete understanding of the situation or problem.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: The fused data provides a more robust foundation for decision-making. Thus, it incorporates multiple perspectives and insights, enabling better-informed and more effective decision-making processes.
  • Improved Situational Awareness: Data fusion helps comprehensively understand complex situations or environments. In addition, integrating data from sensors, sources, or systems enhances situational awareness, enabling better monitoring, analysis, and response to changing conditions.
  • Optimized Resource Utilization: It enables the optimal utilization of resources. Moreover, integrating existing data sources effectively eliminates redundancy, reduces the need for additional data collection or processing, and optimizes resource allocation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the difference between data fusion and data integration?

Data fusion involves combining data from multiple sources to create a more accurate representation of information. In contrast, data integration focuses on integrating data from different sources into a unified view without necessarily modifying the original data.

2. What is the data fusion in IOT?

In IoT (Internet of Things), data fusion combines data from various IoT devices and sensors to derive valuable insights and make informed decisions. IoT devices generate massive amounts of data from different sources, such as sensors, actuators, and other connected devices.

3. What Challenges Does Data Fusion Face?

Challenges include:
1 Dealing with diverse and sometimes conflicting data sources.
2 Handling uncertainty.
3 Managing temporal and spatial misalignments.
4 Designing algorithms that are robust and efficient.

4. Is Data Fusion Limited to Specific Technologies or Platforms?

 No, it can be implemented using various technologies and platforms, including traditional server-based systems, cloud computing, and edge computing, depending on the requirements of the application.

This has been a guide to what is Data Fusion. Here, we explain in detail, including its techniques, examples, and benefits. You can learn more about financing from the following articles –

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