Understanding the Discrete Fourier Transform
DFT equations, without insight into what the summationssignify, often look formidable to many engineers. DFT canbe interpreted in terms of
to understandthe physical meaning of the transform.
By R.N. Mutagi
iscrete Fourier Transform (DFT) is used
extensively in signal processing applica-tions such as communications, broadcasting,entertainment and many other areas. The DFTequations often discourage engineers in otherfields from understanding the digital signalprocessing (DSP) literature. With the devel-opment in analog to digital conversion (ADC)and DSP technology, more and more of theanalog circuits are brought into the arena of DSP. For example, in today’s software-de-fined radio, the RF signal leaves the analogdomain in the early stage of the receiver andis converted to digital at intermediate fre-quency (IF) stage. A typical DSP system isshown in Figure 1.The analog signal is sampled and quan-tized in an ADC and fed to a DSP as asequence of numbers. A programmable DSP,with a suitable architecture dealing with dataand instructions simultaneously, does thenumber crunching with hardware, executingsignal processing tasks. Understanding DFTis imperative for RF and analog engineers.The Fourier transform converts a signalrepresentation from time-domain to frequencydomain for frequency analysis.
However, theFourier transform is a continuous function of frequency and is not suitable for computationwith a DSP. DFT representation of the con-tinuous-time signal permits the computeranalysis. Here, we develop DFT, beginningwith a simple concept of correlation.
Suppose we try to find which among thewaveforms 2 and 3 in Figure 2 match closelyto waveform 1. We may approach the prob-lem intuitively, but we may not always becorrect. However, a method exists for mea-suring the similarity between two functionsor waveforms. In signal processing we call itcorrelation.We use correlation to estimate a receivedsignal with its known characteristics. Forexample, we recover the carrier from a noisyreceived signal by correlating with a locallygenerated ‘clean’ carrier and the clock fromthe noisy data by correlating with a ‘clean’clock. In both cases, the error, the differencebetween the received signal and its estimate,corrects the oscillatorphase and frequency.In spread-spectrum modu-lation, we correlate a lo-cally generated pseudonoise (PN) pattern with thereceived PN pattern andcorrect its phase beforedemodulating the data.In the DSP literature thecorrelation is mathemati-cally described by the equa-tion(1)Equation 1 provides the correlation
between two functions
as afunction of the time shift
. For any value of time shift
, the two functions are multipliedand the result is integrated over infinity. Forperiodic functions this equation is modifiedas(2)As you notice, the integration and averag-ing are done over one period
because thesignals are now power signals. We now in-troduce a simplified version of Equation 2wherein we take away the time shift t and callit as spot correlation.(3)The spot correlation Equation 3, which issimply the average of the product of twoperiodic signals over the period, is the mea-sure of similarity between
, withno time shift
between any of them, i.e. thecorrelation on the spot. Thus, spot correla-tion provides the pattern matching for thetwo functions. This interpretation comes inhandy when we try to understand the DFTequations. While correlation can be viewedas one function searching to find itself inanother, spot correlation can be interpretedas the measure of how much one function isembedded in another. It is the average of theproduct-sum of two functions, or signals,over the period of interest.
Discrete spot correlation
Sampling a continuous signal
, shownin Figure 3(a), with a sampling signal at aregular interval
as in Figure 3(b) givesdiscrete-time signal with non-zero values atinstants
as shown in Figure 3(c).We can write the spot correlation equa-tion for two discrete-time signals of
samplesas(4)Comparing Equation 4 with Equation 2we notice that the integration over theinterval T for the continuous-time signals isreplaced by summation of N terms for dis-crete-time signals. We can drop the samplinginterval T from Equation 4 for simplicity andrewrite it as
Figure 2. Finding similarity among waveforms.Figure 1. Typical DSP system.