Analysis of Spatially Coupled Systems using the Potential Functional with Applications to Coding Theory

For the past 70 years or so, coding theorists have been aiming at designing transmission schemes with efficient encoding and decoding algorithms that achieve the capacity of various noisy channels. It was not until the '90s that graph-based codes, such as low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes, and their associated low-complexity iterative decoding algorithms were discovered and studied in depth. Although these schemes are efficient, they are not, in general, capacity-achieving. More specifically, these codes perform well up to some algorithmic threshold on the channel parameter, which is lower than the optimal threshold. The gap between the algorithmic and optimal thresholds was finally closed by spatial coupling. In the context of coding, the belief propagation algorithm on spatially coupled codes yields capacity-achieving low-complexity transmission schemes. The reason behind the optimal performance of spatially coupled codes is ``seeding'' perfect information on the replicas at the boundaries of the coupling chain. This extra information makes decoding easier near the boundaries, and this effect is then propagated into the coupling chain upon iterations of the decoding algorithm. Spatial coupling was also applied to various other problems that are governed by low-complexity message-passing algorithms, such as random constraint satisfaction problems, compressive sensing, and statistical physics. Each system has an associated algorithmic threshold and an optimal threshold. As with coding, once the underlying graphs are spatially coupled, the algorithms for these systems exhibit optimal performance. In this thesis, we analyze the performance of iterative low-complexity message-passing algorithms on general spatially coupled systems, and we specialize our results in coding theory applications. To do this, we express the evolution of the state of the system (along iterations of the algorithm) in a variational form, in terms of the so-called potential functional, in the continuum limit approximation. This thesis consists of two parts. In the first part, we consider the dynamic phase of the message-passing algorithm, in which iterations of the algorithm modify the state of the spatially coupled system. Assuming that the boundaries of the coupled chain are appropriately ``seeded'', we find a closed-form analytical formula for the velocity with which the extra information propagates into the chain. We apply this result to coupled irregular LDPC code-ensembles with transmission over general BMS channels and to coupled general scalar systems. We perform numerical simulations for several applications and show that our formula gives values that match the empirical, observed velocity. This confirms that the continuum limit is an approximation well-suited to the derivation of the formula. In the second part of this thesis, we consider the static phase of the message-passing algorithm, when it can no longer modify the state of the system. We introduce a novel proof technique that employs displacement convexity, a mathematical tool from optimal transport, to prove that the potential functional is strictly displacement convex under an alternative structure in the space of probability measures. We hence establish the uniqueness of the state to which the spatially coupled system converges, and we characterize it. We apply this result to the (l,r)-regular Gallager ensemble with transmission over the BEC and to coupled general scalar systems.

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