Applications of Persistent Homology to Time Varying Systems

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Munch, Elizabeth


Harer, John

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This dissertation extends the theory of persistent homology to time varying systems. Most of the previous work has been dedicated to using this powerful tool in topological data analysis to study static point clouds. In particular, given a point cloud, we can construct its persistence diagram. Since the diagram varies continuously as the point cloud varies continuously, we study the space of time varying persistence diagrams, called vineyards when they were introduced by Cohen-Steiner, Edelsbrunner, and Morozov.

We will first show that with a good choice of metric, these vineyards are stable for small perturbations of their associated point clouds. We will also define a new mean for a set of persistence diagrams based on the work of Mileyko et al. which, unlike the previously defined mean, is continuous for geodesic vineyards.

Next, we study the sensor network problem posed by Ghrist and de Silva, and their application of persistent homology to understand when a set of sensors covers a given region. Giving each of these sensors a probability of failure over time, we show that an exact computation of the probability of failure of the whole system is NP-hard, but give an algorithm which can predict failure in the case of a monitored system.

Finally, we apply these methods to an automated system which can cluster agents moving in aerial images by their behaviors. We build a data structure for storing and querying the information in real-time, and define behavior vectors which quantify behaviors of interest. This clustering by behavior can be used to find groups of interest, for which we can also quantify behaviors in order to determine whether the group is working together to achieve a common goal, and we speculate that this work can be extended to improving tracking algorithms as well as behavioral predictors.






Munch, Elizabeth (2013). Applications of Persistent Homology to Time Varying Systems. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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