Smoothing with Couplings of Conditional Particle Filters
In state space models, smoothing refers to the task of estimating a latent stochastic process given noisy measurements related to the process. We propose an unbiased estimator of smoothing expectations. The lack-of-bias property has methodological benefits: independent estimators can be generated in parallel, and confidence intervals can be constructed from the central limit theorem to quantify the approximation error. To design unbiased estimators, we combine a generic debiasing technique for Markov chains, with a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm for smoothing. The resulting procedure is widely applicable and we show in numerical experiments that the removal of the bias comes at a manageable increase in variance. We establish the validity of the proposed estimators under mild assumptions. Numerical experiments are provided on toy models, including a setting of highly-informative observations, and for a realistic Lotka-Volterra model with an intractable transition density.