Identifying a Slums’ Degree of Deprivation from VHR Images Using Convolutional Neural Networks

Alireza Ajami (Corresponding Author), M. Kuffer*, C. Persello, K. Pfeffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
297 Downloads (Pure)


In the cities of the Global South, slum settlements are growing in size and number, but their locations and characteristics are often missing in official statistics and maps. Although several studies have focused on detecting slums from satellite images, only a few captured their variations. This study addresses this gap using an integrated approach that can identify a slums’ degree of deprivation in terms of socio-economic variability in Bangalore, India using image features derived from very high resolution (VHR) satellite images. To characterize deprivation, we use multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) and quantify deprivation with a data-driven index of multiple deprivation (DIMD). We take advantage of spatial features learned by a convolutional neural network (CNN) from VHR satellite images to predict the DIMD. To deal with a small training dataset of only 121 samples with known DIMD values, insufficient to train a deep CNN, we conduct a two-step transfer learning approach using 1461 delineated slum boundaries as follows. First, a CNN is trained using these samples to classify slums and formal areas. The trained network is then fine-tuned using the 121 samples to directly predict the DIMD. The best prediction is obtained by using an ensemble non-linear regression model, combining the results of the CNN and models based on hand-crafted and geographic information system (GIS) features, with R2 of 0.75. Our findings show that using the proposed two-step transfer learning approach, a deep CNN can be trained with a limited number of samples to predict the slums’ degree of deprivation. This demonstrates that the CNN-based approach can capture variations of deprivation in VHR images, providing a comprehensive understanding of the socio-economic situation of slums in Bangalore.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1282
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number11
Early online date29 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019




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