Fusion of Probability Density Functions

Published in Proceedings of the IEEE, 2022

Fusing probabilistic information is a fundamental task in signal and data processing with relevance to many fields of technology and science. In this work, we investigate the fusion of multiple probability density functions (pdfs) of a continuous random variable or vector. Although the case of continuous random variables and the problem of pdf fusion frequently arise in multisensor signal processing, statistical inference, and machine learning, a universally accepted method for pdf fusion does not exist. The diversity of approaches, perspectives, and solutions related to pdf fusion motivates a unified presentation of the theory and methodology of the field. We discuss three different approaches to fusing pdfs. In the axiomatic approach, the fusion rule is defined indirectly by a set of properties (axioms). In the optimization approach, it is the result of minimizing an objective function that involves an information-theoretic divergence or a distance measure. In the supra-Bayesian approach, the fusion center interprets the pdfs to be fused as random observations. Our work is partly a survey, reviewing in a structured and coherent fashion many of the concepts and methods that have been developed in the literature. In addition, we present new results for each of the three approaches. Our original contributions include new fusion rules, axioms, and axiomatic and optimization-based characterizations; a new formulation of supra-Bayesian fusion in terms of finite-dimensional parametrizations; and a study of supra-Bayesian fusion of posterior pdfs for linear Gaussian models.