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An elementary piece of our prior knowledge about images of the physical world is that they are spatially smooth, in the sense that neighboring pixels are more likely to belong to the same object (class) than to different ones. The smoothness assumption becomes more important as sensor resolutions keep increasing, both because the radiometric variability within classes increases and because remote sensing is employed in more heterogeneous areas (e.g., cities), where shadow and shading effects, a multitude of materials, etc., degrade the measurement data, and prior knowledge plays a greater role. This paper gives a systematic overview of image classification methods, which impose a smoothness prior on the labels. Both local filtering-type approaches and global random field models developed in other fields of image processing are reviewed, and two new methods are proposed. Then follows a detailed experimental comparison and analysis of the presented methods, using two different aerial data sets from urban areas with known ground truth. A main message of the paper is that when classifying data of high spatial resolution, smoothness greatly improves the accuracy of the result-in our experiments up to 33%. A further finding is that global random field models outperform local filtering methods and should be more widely adopted for remote sensing. Finally, the evaluation confirms that all methods already oversmooth when most effective, pointing out that there is a need to include more and more complex prior information into the classification process.
Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:50 , Issue: 11 )
Date of Publication: Nov. 2012