A review of accuracy assessment for object-based image analysis: From per-pixel to per-polygon approaches

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Object-based image analysis (OBIA) has gained widespread popularity for creating maps from remotely sensed data. Researchers routinely claim that OBIA procedures outperform pixel-based procedures; however, it is not immediately obvious how to evaluate the degree to which an OBIA map compares to reference information in a manner that accounts for the fact that the OBIA map consists of objects that vary in size and shape. Our study reviews 209 journal articles concerning OBIA published between 2003 and 2017. We focus on the three stages of accuracy assessment: (1) sampling design, (2) response design and (3) accuracy analysis. First, we report the literature's overall characteristics concerning OBIA accuracy assessment. Simple random sampling was the most used method among probability sampling strategies, slightly more than stratified sampling. Office interpreted remotely sensed data was the dominant reference source. The literature reported accuracies ranging from 42% to 96%, with an average of 85%. A third of the articles failed to give sufficient information concerning accuracy methodology such as sampling scheme and sample size. We found few studies that focused specifically on the accuracy of the segmentation. Second, we identify a recent increase of OBIA articles in using per-polygon approaches compared to per-pixel approaches for accuracy assessment. We clarify the impacts of the per-pixel versus the per-polygon approaches respectively on sampling, response design and accuracy analysis. Our review defines the technical and methodological needs in the current per-polygon approaches, such as polygon-based sampling, analysis of mixed polygons, matching of mapped with reference polygons and assessment of segmentation accuracy. Our review summarizes and discusses the current issues in object-based accuracy assessment to provide guidance for improved accuracy assessments for OBIA.

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ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

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accuracy assessment, OBIA, object-based image analysis, per-pixel, per-polygon, remote sensing