Tassi, A; Vizzari, M (2020). Object-Oriented LULC Classification in Google Earth Engine Combining SNIC, GLCM, and Machine Learning Algorithms. REMOTE SENSING, 12(22), 3776.

Google Earth Engine (GEE) is a versatile cloud platform in which pixel-based (PB) and object-oriented (OO) Land Use-Land Cover (LULC) classification approaches can be implemented, thanks to the availability of the many state-of-art functions comprising various Machine Learning (ML) algorithms. OO approaches, including both object segmentation and object textural analysis, are still not common in the GEE environment, probably due to the difficulties existing in concatenating the proper functions, and in tuning the various parameters to overcome the GEE computational limits. In this context, this work is aimed at developing and testing an OO classification approach combining the Simple Non-Iterative Clustering (SNIC) algorithm to identify spatial clusters, the Gray-Level Co-occurrence Matrix (GLCM) to calculate cluster textural indices, and two ML algorithms (Random Forest (RF) or Support Vector Machine (SVM)) to perform the final classification. A Principal Components Analysis (PCA) is applied to the main seven GLCM indices to synthesize in one band the textural information used for the OO classification. The proposed approach is implemented in a user-friendly, freely available GEE code useful to perform the OO classification, tuning various parameters (e.g., choose the input bands, select the classification algorithm, test various segmentation scales) and compare it with a PB approach. The accuracy of OO and PB classifications can be assessed both visually and through two confusion matrices that can be used to calculate the relevant statistics (producer's, user's, overall accuracy (OA)). The proposed methodology was broadly tested in a 154 km(2) study area, located in the Lake Trasimeno area (central Italy), using Landsat 8 (L8), Sentinel 2 (S2), and PlanetScope (PS) data. The area was selected considering its complex LULC mosaic mainly composed of artificial surfaces, annual and permanent crops, small lakes, and wooded areas. In the study area, the various tests produced interesting results on the different datasets (OA: PB RF (L8 = 72.7%, S2 = 82%, PS = 74.2), PB SVM (L8 = 79.1%, S2 = 80.2%, PS = 74.8%), OO RF (L8 = 64%, S2 = 89.3%, PS = 77.9), OO SVM (L8 = 70.4, S2 = 86.9%, PS = 73.9)). The broad code application demonstrated very good reliability of the whole process, even though the OO classification process resulted, sometimes, too demanding on higher resolution data, considering the available computational GEE resources.