Signal Processing at 75: More Dynamic and Pervasive Than Ever

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Signal Processing at 75: More Dynamic and Pervasive Than Ever

José M. F. Moura

The year 2023 marked the 75th anniversary of the IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS), which was founded in 1948 as the “Professional Group on Audio” of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), becoming the first IEEE Society. (The IRE, founded in 1912 with a focus on radio and then electronics, together with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, founded in 1884 with an emphasis on power and utilities, were united in 1963 to form IEEE.) At ICASSP 2023, in Rhodes, Greece, I chaired a panel with Alex Acero of Apple, K. J. Ray Liu of Origin Wireless, Ali H. Sayed of EPFL, and Rabab K. Ward of the University of British Columbia that discussed the future of signal processing (SP) with a focus on the relations between artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and SP. Ours followed a panel chaired by Mos Kaveh, University of Minnesota, with Anthony Constantinides, Imperial College London, Alan Oppenheim, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ron Schafer, Georgia Tech, as panelists who reminisced on the origins of SP.

Our panel tackled the elephant in the room to which we came back repeatedly. When AI is taking the public imaginary and collective consciousness by storm, should we just accept becoming an “AI subfield” or, on the contrary, taking a hint from the past, recognize that we are more relevant and dynamic than ever?

Let me argue the latter and remind ourselves and the world of our unique value and significance.

First, let me state that I take a broad view of what SP has stood and stands for. Where there are data and a willingness to make some intelligent statement and take some meaningful action based on data, there is SP. Processing signals and data have been around possibly since the dawn of humankind, and SP has roots that extend well before 1948, back to Fourier, Gauss, or much earlier. We usually confuse the founding of SP as a discipline, along with its formal methods taught in academia and used by technologists, with the founding of the SPS. From these early beginnings to this day, SP is pervasive, underlying many of the advances in our digital world. To be clearer, we need to look only to the latest few issues of this magazine. Commemorating the 75th-year event, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine published in the June and July 2023 issues several articles on the major accomplishments in the field in the last 25 years, covering advances in many diverse areas, from multiresolution, wavelets, and sparse SP, to audio and speech processing, brain–computer interfaces, multimedia SP, information forensics, radar, communications, super-resolution imaging, and the infusion of optimization in many traditional SP areas, like beamforming and array processing, to the emergence of new areas, such as computational imaging, distributed and decentralized networked inference, and graph SP. These articles are well worth reading and show that our current state of affairs reflects a highly dynamic field with major impactful contributions. Even if we paraphrase an Intel market gimmick of the 1990s and 2000s, “SP inside,” we SP’sers know for a fact that SP has been a major contributor to the digital wireless and AI revolutions.


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