A metaheuristic approach for efficient and effective sketch-to-metric map alignment

M. Chipofya*, Carl Schultz, Angela Schwering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Sketching as a natural mode for human communication and creative processes presents opportunities for improving human–computer interaction in geospatial information systems. However, to use a sketch map as user input, it must be localized within the underlying spatial data set of the information system, the base metric map. This can be achieved by a matching process called qualitative map alignment in which qualitative spatial representations of the two input maps are used to establish correspondences between each sketched object and one or more objects in the metric map. The challenge is that, to the best of our knowledge, no method for matching qualitative spatial representations suggested so far is applicable in realistic scenarios due to excessively long runtimes, incorrect algorithm design or the inability to use more than one spatial aspect at a time. We address these challenges with a metaheuristic algorithm which uses novel data structures to match qualitative spatial representations of a pair of maps. We present the design, data structures and performance evaluation of the algorithm using real-world sketch and metric maps as well as on synthetic data. Our algorithm is novel in two main aspects. Firstly, it employs a novel system of matrices known as local compatibility matrices, which facilitate the computation of estimates for the future size of a partial alignment and allow several types of constraints to be used at the same time. Secondly, the heuristic it computes has a higher accuracy than the state-of-the-art heuristic for this task, yet requires less computation. Our algorithm is also a general method for matching labelled graphs, a special case of which is the one involving complete graphs whose edges are labelled with spatial relations. The results of our evaluation demonstrate practical runtime performance and high solution quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-425
Number of pages21
JournalInternational journal of geographical information science
Issue number2
Early online date8 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • compatibility matrix
  • graph matching
  • metaheuristics
  • qualitative constraint networks
  • Sketch-to-metric map alignment
  • ITC-CV


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