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Optimal estimation

Least squares estimation is one of the techniques for doing an optimal estimation. In these sorts of problems we have an adjustable model of the way our system is supposed to behave and some actual measurements of the system. Because our measurements are real world measurements, they will contain some errors (due to calibration, or resolution limitations, or because of noise). Its also possible that our model of the way the system works is not the way it actually works, so there could be some error in the description of it. Nevertheless, in spite of the presence of both types of errors, we want to make the best possible estimation.

There are many ways to quantify what we mean by the best possible estimate. This measure of the quality of our estimate is called a cost function. Frequently the type of application that we are working with will dictate what the cost function will be, but many times its not. A least squares cost function works in the following way. Given a provisional set of model parameters:

• for each measure data point, calculate what the model would give.
• take the difference between the two, this is the error
• square the error and sum them for all the data points
Squaring the errors, eliminates any effect associated with the difference between positive errors and negative errors (for some problems this is not a good idea) and turns out to be particularly mathematically convienient (unlike, say, the sum of the absolute values of the errors).   Next: Fitting data to a Up: number10 Previous: Introduction
Skip Carter 2008-08-20