Establishing secret keys from the commonly-observed randomness of reciprocal wireless propagation channels has recently received considerable attention. In this work we propose improved strategies for channel estimation between MIMO or beamforming systems for secret key generation. The amount of mutual information that can be extracted from the channel matrix estimates is determined by the quality of channel matrix estimates. By allocating increased energy to channel estimation for higher gain beamforming combinations at the expense of low-gain combinations, key establishment performance can be increased. Formalizing the notion of preferential energy allocation to the most efficient excitations is the central theme of this dissertation. For probing with beamforming systems, we formulate a theoretically optimal probing strategy that upper bounds the number of key bits that can be generated from reciprocal channel observations. Specifically, we demonstrate that the eigenvectors of the channel spatial covariance matrix should be used as beamformer weights during channel estimation and we optimize the energy allocated to channel estimation for each beamformer weight under a total energy constraint. The optimal probing strategy is not directly implementable in practice, and therefore we propose two different modifications to the optimal algorithm based on a Kronecker approximation to the spatial covariance matrix. Though these approximations are suboptimal, they each perform well relative to the upper bound. To explore how effective an array is at extracting all of the information available in the propagation environment connecting two nodes, we apply the optimal beamformer probing strategy to a vector current basis function expansion on the array volume. We prove that the resulting key rate is a key rate spatial bound that upper bounds the key rate achievable by any set of antenna arrays probing the channel with the same total energy constraint. For MIMO systems we assume the channel is separable with a Kronecker model, and then for that model we propose an improved probing strategy that iteratively optimizes the energy allocation for each node using concave maximization. The performance of this iterative approach is better than that achieved using the traditional probing strategy in many realistic probing scenarios.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





cryptography, covariance matrices, security, array signal processing, MIMO, beamforming