Skip to Main Content
Quickest detection procedures are techniques used to detect sudden or abrupt changes (also called disorders) in the statistics of a random process. The goal is to determine as soon as possible that the change occurred, while at the same time minimizing the chance of falsely signaling the occurrence of a disorder before the change. In this work the distributed quickest detection problem when the disorder occurs at an unknown time is considered. The distributed local detectors utilize a simple summing device and threshold comparator, with a binary decision at the output. At the fusion center, the optimal maximum likelihood (ML) procedure is analyzed and compared with the more practical Page procedure for quickest detection. It is shown that the two procedures have practically equivalent performance. For the important case of unknown disorder magnitudes, a version of the Hinkley procedure is also examined. Next, a simple method for choosing the thresholds of the local detectors based on an asymptotic performance measure is presented. The problem of selecting the local thresholds usually requires optimizing a constrained set of nonlinear equations; our method admits a separable problem, leading to straightforward calculations. A sensitivity analysis reveals that the resulting threshold settings are optimal for practical purposes. The issue of which sample size to use for the local detectors is investigated, and the tradeoff between decision delay and communication cost is evaluated. For strong signals, it is shown that the relative performance deteriorates as the sample size increases, that is, as the system cost decreases. Surprisingly, for the weak signal case, lowering the system cost (increasing the sample size) does not necessarily result in a degradation of performance.