Identifying patterns in urban housing density in developing countries using convolutional networks and satellite imagery
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The use of Deep Neural Networks for remote sensing scene image analysis is growing fast. Despite this, data sets on developing countries are conspicuously absent in the public domain for benchmarking machine learning algorithms, rendering existing data sets unrepresentative. Secondly, current literature uses low-level semantic scene image class definitions, which may not have many relevant applications in certain domains. To examine these problems, we applied Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) to high-level scene image classification for identifying patterns in urban housing density in a developing country setting. An end-to-end model training workflow is proposed for this purpose. A method for quantifying spatial extent of urban housing classes which gives insight into settlement patterns is also proposed. The method consists of computing the ratio between area covered by a given housing class and total area occupied by all classes. In the current work this method is implemented based on grid count, whereby the number of predicted grids for one housing class is divided by the total grid count for all classes. Results from the proposed method were validated against building density data computed on Open- StreetMap data. Our results for scene image classification are comparable to current state-of-the-art, despite focusing only on most difficult classes in those works. We also contribute a new satellite scene image data set that captures some general characteristics of urban housing in developing countries. The data set has similar but also some distinct attributes to existing data sets.
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