Hidden Markov models (HMMs) are one of the most popular and successful statistical models for time series. Observable operator models (OOMs) are generalizations of HMMs that exhibit several attractive advantages. In particular, a variety of highly efficient, constructive, and asymptotically correct learning algorithms are available for OOMs. However, the OOM theory suffers from the negative probability problem (NPP): a given, learned OOM may sometimes predict negative probabilities for certain events. It was recently shown that it is undecidable whether a given OOM will eventually produce such negative values.

We propose a novel variant of OOMs, called norm-observable operator models (NOOMs), which avoid the NPP by design. Like OOMs, NOOMs use a set of linear operators to update system states. But differing from OOMs, they represent probabilities by the square of the norm of system states, thus precluding negative probability values. While being free of the NPP, NOOMs retain most advantages of OOMs. For example, NOOMs also capture (some) processes that cannot be modeled by HMMs. More importantly, in principle, NOOMs can be learned from data in a constructive way, and the learned models are asymptotically correct. We also prove that NOOMs capture all Markov chain (MC) describable processes.

This letter presents the mathematical foundations of NOOMs, discusses the expressiveness of the model class, and explains how a NOOM can be estimated from data constructively.

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