# Bound for weighted sum of Poisson random variables

Suppose I have some independent Poisson-distributed random variables $X_1 \ldots X_N$ with parameters $\lambda_1 \ldots \lambda_N$. These can be thought of as processes where each arrival/event generates a loss of $a_1 \ldots a_N$. What I'm ultimately looking for is an upper bound $X^*$ for the loss per unit time (hour) to some confidence level $\alpha$, i.e. an $X^*$ such that

$$P\left(\sum_{i=1}^N a_iX_i \leq X^*\right) \geq 1-\alpha$$

I am mainly interested in (efficient to calculate) approximations, since I don't expect an explicit solution to exist.
As far as I understand an explicit calculation of the probability alone would involve $N$-fold nested sums (of which one can be turned into a Gamma function). My parameters are $N \in \{5 \ldots 10\}$, $\lambda_i \in [1 , 20]$, so this generates awfully many terms.

Is there a better way than Monte-Carlo simulation?
Is approximation of $X_i$ as Gaussian distributed and the following calculations for the standard deviation of the (weighted) sum sensible? Maybe with corrections?

Let $$X_1, \dots, X_n$$ be independent Poisson random variables with parameters $$\lambda_1, \dots, \lambda_n$$. Let $$a_1, \dots, a_n$$ be positive real numbers. We define the random variable $$X=\sum_{i=1}^n a_i X_i$$ and want an approximation for the distribution of $$X$$. When the weights $$a_i$$ are integers and $$n$$ is not to large, we can use numerical convolution. For the general case the saddlepoint approximation gives a good approximation for the density (probability) function.

The cumulant generating function for $$X_i$$ is given by $$K_i(s) = \lambda_i (e^s - 1)$$, $$s \in (-\infty, +\infty)$$. The cumulant generating function of $$X$$ is then $$K(s) = \sum_{i=1}^n K_i(a_i s) = \sum_{i=1}^n \lambda_i (e^{a_i s} - 1)$$ We will need the first two derivatives, given by $$K'(s) = \sum \lambda_i a_i e^{a_i s} \\ K''(s) = \sum \lambda_i a_i^2 e^{a_i s}$$ The saddlepoint equation is given by $$K'(\hat{s})=x$$ which defines $$\hat{s}=\hat{s}_x$$ implicitly as a function of $$x$$.

The saddlepoint density function (for $$x>0$$) is now given by $$\hat{f}(x) = \frac1{\sqrt{2\pi K''(\hat{s})}} \exp\left(K \hat{s} - \hat{s} x\right)$$ and the probability that $$X=0$$ is given (exactly) by $$\hat{f}(0) = \exp(-\sum \lambda_i)$$ An implementation in R is below:

# Saddlepoint approximation for a weighted sum of independent
#  Poisson Random variables:

# Needs R 3.1.0 or newer (for extra argument of uniroot)
make_cumgenfun  <-  function(lambda, a) {
# we return list(lambda, a, K, K',  K'')
n  <- length(lambda)
m  <- length(a)
stopifnot( n==m, lambda>0,  a>0)
return( list(lambda=lambda, a=a,
Vectorize(function(s) {sum(lambda * (exp(a*s)-1))} ),
Vectorize(function(s) {sum(lambda * a * exp(a*s))} ),
Vectorize(function(s) {sum(lambda * a* a *exp(a*s))}
)))
}
# Probability that X=0:

P0  <- exp(-sum(lambda))

# Functions to get expectation and variance of X:

Ef  <-  function(lambda, a) sum(lambda*a)
Vf  <-  function(lambda, a) sum(lambda*a*a)

solve_speq  <-  function(x, cumgenfun) {
extendInt="yes")$root } # For an example, define set.seed(1234) lambda <- 1:10 a <- runif(10, 0.5, 3) E <- Ef(lambda, a) V <- Vf(lambda, a) # Now, a function giving the (uncorrected ) saddlepoint density. # We include the special case for x=0 make_fhat <- function(lambda, a) { cgf1 <- make_cumgenfun(lambda, a) K <- cgf1[[3]] Kd <- cgf1[[4]] Kdd <- cgf1[[5]] # function finding fhat for one specific x: fhat0 <- function(x) if (x==0) P0 else { # solve saddlepoint equation: s <- solve_speq(x, cgf1) # calculating saddlepointdensity value: (1/sqrt(2*pi*Kdd(s)))*exp(K(s)-s*x)} #Returning a vectorized version: return(Vectorize(fhat0)) } # end make_fhat  and running this code in R: > fhat <- make_fhat(lambda, a) > E [1] 94.72556 > V [1] 185.3017 > sqrt(V) [1] 13.61256 > fhat(0) [1] 1.299581e-24 > fhat(94) [1] 0.02938575 > fhat(107) [1] 0.01861648 > integrate(fhat, lower=0, upper=Inf) 1.001878 with absolute error < 3.6e-05 >  The last integration can be used to correct fhat to get integral 1 (not shown here). Finally, we can get a plot of the approximate density: > plot(fhat, from=60, to=130)  Now, you can yourself compare this with a normal approximation and with simulations. It should be quite accurate! • Thanks for the answer and the code, it seems to work. However I hadn't heard about saddlepoint estimations before and therefore I don't fully understand how it works. You produce a generic distribution with the same cumulants? Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 17:32 • The saddlepoint-approximation needs the moment generating function to exist. And yes, it builds on the cumulants---all of them, not only the first two as the central limit theorem does. You should have a look at the referenced book by Butler! Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 17:35 • What I meant to say is that it would take me more time (some days - weeks) to read up on this than I can spare right now. Thanks for the reference anyway! Btw in my case a Gaussian approximation is quite close to the saddlepoint estimation (are the higher cumulants of a Poisson close to those of a Gaussian?) Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 11:13 • Nice. Perhaps that "How does the saddlepoint approximation work?" question is worth having on site.$\qquad\$ [In the end I did ask it.] Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 0:33