A survey of digital map processing techniques

Yao Yi Chiang, Stefan Leyk, Craig A. Knoblock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Maps depict natural and human-induced changes on earth at a fine resolution for large areas and over long periods of time. In addition, maps-especially historical maps-are often the only information source about the earth as surveyed using geodetic techniques. In order to preserve these unique documents, increasing numbers of digital map archives have been established, driven by advances in software and hardware technologies. Since the early 1980s, researchers from a variety of disciplines, including computer science and geography, have been working on computational methods for the extraction and recognition of geographic features from archived images of maps (digital map processing). The typical result from map processing is geographic information that can be used in spatial and spatiotemporal analyses in a Geographic Information System environment, which benefits numerous research fields in the spatial, social, environmental, and health sciences. However, map processing literature is spread across a broad range of disciplines in which maps are included as a special type of image. This article presents an overview of existing map processing techniques, with the goal of bringing together the past and current research efforts in this interdisciplinary field, to characterize the advances that have been made, and to identify future research directions and opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera1
JournalACM Computing Surveys
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Color segmentation
  • Geographic information systems
  • Graphics recognition
  • Image processing
  • Map processing
  • Pattern recognition


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