Geographic location is essential for modeling tasks in fields ranging from ecology to epidemiology to the Earth system sciences. However, extracting relevant and meaningful characteristics of a location can be challenging, often entailing expensive data fusion or data distillation from global imagery datasets. To address this challenge, we introduce Satellite Contrastive Location-Image Pretraining (SatCLIP), a global, general-purpose geographic location encoder that learns an implicit representation of locations from openly available satellite imagery. Trained location encoders provide vector embeddings summarizing the characteristics of any given location for convenient usage in diverse downstream tasks. We show that SatCLIP embeddings, pretrained on globally sampled multi-spectral Sentinel-2 satellite data, can be used in various predictive tasks that depend on location information but not necessarily satellite imagery, including temperature prediction, animal recognition in imagery, and population density estimation. Across tasks, SatCLIP embeddings consistently outperform embeddings from existing pretrained location encoders, ranging from models trained on natural images to models trained on semantic context. SatCLIP embeddings also help to improve geographic generalization. This demonstrates the potential of general-purpose location encoders and opens the door to learning meaningful representations of our planet from the vast, varied, and largely untapped modalities of geospatial data.
Learning feature representations of geographical space is vital for any machine learning model that integrates geolocated data, spanning application domains such as remote sensing, ecology, or epidemiology. Recent work mostly embeds coordinates using sine and cosine projections based on Double Fourier Sphere (DFS) features -- these embeddings assume a rectangular data domain even on global data, which can lead to artifacts, especially at the poles. At the same time, relatively little attention has been paid to the exact design of the neural network architectures these functional embeddings are combined with. This work proposes a novel location encoder for globally distributed geographic data that combines spherical harmonic basis functions, natively defined on spherical surfaces, with sinusoidal representation networks (SirenNets) that can be interpreted as learned Double Fourier Sphere embedding. We systematically evaluate the cross-product of positional embeddings and neural network architectures across various classification and regression benchmarks and synthetic evaluation datasets. In contrast to previous approaches that require the combination of both positional encoding and neural networks to learn meaningful representations, we show that both spherical harmonics and sinusoidal representation networks are competitive on their own but set state-of-the-art performances across tasks when combined. We provide source code at www.github.com/marccoru/locationencoder
In this white paper, we synthesize key points made during presentations and discussions from the AI-Assisted Decision Making for Conservation workshop, hosted by the Center for Research on Computation and Society at Harvard University on October 20-21, 2022. We identify key open research questions in resource allocation, planning, and interventions for biodiversity conservation, highlighting conservation challenges that not only require AI solutions, but also require novel methodological advances. In addition to providing a summary of the workshop talks and discussions, we hope this document serves as a call-to-action to orient the expansion of algorithmic decision-making approaches to prioritize real-world conservation challenges, through collaborative efforts of ecologists, conservation decision-makers, and AI researchers.
These are the proceedings of the 5th workshop on Machine Learning for the Developing World (ML4D), held as part of the Thirty-fifth Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) on December 14th, 2021.
Synthetic data generation is a fundamental task for many data management and data science applications. Spatial data is of particular interest, and its sensitive nature often leads to privacy concerns. We introduce GeoPointGAN, a novel GAN-based solution for generating synthetic spatial point datasets with high utility and strong individual level privacy guarantees. GeoPointGAN's architecture includes a novel point transformation generator that learns to project randomly generated point co-ordinates into meaningful synthetic co-ordinates that capture both microscopic (e.g., junctions, squares) and macroscopic (e.g., parks, lakes) geographic features. We provide our privacy guarantees through label local differential privacy, which is more practical than traditional local differential privacy. We seamlessly integrate this level of privacy into GeoPointGAN by augmenting the discriminator to the point level and implementing a randomized response-based mechanism that flips the labels associated with the 'real' and 'fake' points used in training. Extensive experiments show that GeoPointGAN significantly outperforms recent solutions, improving by up to 10 times compared to the most competitive baseline. We also evaluate GeoPointGAN using range, hotspot, and facility location queries, which confirm the practical effectiveness of GeoPointGAN for privacy-preserving querying. The results illustrate that a strong level of privacy is achieved with little-to-no adverse utility cost, which we explain through the generalization and regularization effects that are realized by flipping the labels of the data during training.
Forest biomass is a key influence for future climate, and the world urgently needs highly scalable financing schemes, such as carbon offsetting certifications, to protect and restore forests. Current manual forest carbon stock inventory methods of measuring single trees by hand are time, labour, and cost-intensive and have been shown to be subjective. They can lead to substantial overestimation of the carbon stock and ultimately distrust in forest financing. The potential for impact and scale of leveraging advancements in machine learning and remote sensing technologies is promising but needs to be of high quality in order to replace the current forest stock protocols for certifications. In this paper, we present ReforesTree, a benchmark dataset of forest carbon stock in six agro-forestry carbon offsetting sites in Ecuador. Furthermore, we show that a deep learning-based end-to-end model using individual tree detection from low cost RGB-only drone imagery is accurately estimating forest carbon stock within official carbon offsetting certification standards. Additionally, our baseline CNN model outperforms state-of-the-art satellite-based forest biomass and carbon stock estimates for this type of small-scale, tropical agro-forestry sites. We present this dataset to encourage machine learning research in this area to increase accountability and transparency of monitoring, verification and reporting (MVR) in carbon offsetting projects, as well as scaling global reforestation financing through accurate remote sensing.
Graph neural networks (GNNs) provide a powerful and scalable solution for modeling continuous spatial data. However, in the absence of further context on the geometric structure of the data, they often rely on Euclidean distances to construct the input graphs. This assumption can be improbable in many real-world settings, where the spatial structure is more complex and explicitly non-Euclidean (e.g., road networks). In this paper, we propose PE-GNN, a new framework that incorporates spatial context and correlation explicitly into the models. Building on recent advances in geospatial auxiliary task learning and semantic spatial embeddings, our proposed method (1) learns a context-aware vector encoding of the geographic coordinates and (2) predicts spatial autocorrelation in the data in parallel with the main task. On spatial regression tasks, we show the effectiveness of our approach, improving performance over different state-of-the-art GNN approaches. We also test our approach for spatial interpolation, i.e., spatial regression without node features, a task that GNNs are currently not competitive at. We observe that our approach not only vastly improves over the GNN baselines, but can match Gaussian processes, the most commonly utilized method for spatial interpolation problems.
Shared e-mobility services have been widely tested and piloted in cities across the globe, and already woven into the fabric of modern urban planning. This paper studies a practical yet important problem in those systems: how to deploy and manage their infrastructure across space and time, so that the services are ubiquitous to the users while sustainable in profitability. However, in real-world systems evaluating the performance of different deployment strategies and then finding the optimal plan is prohibitively expensive, as it is often infeasible to conduct many iterations of trial-and-error. We tackle this by designing a high-fidelity simulation environment, which abstracts the key operation details of the shared e-mobility systems at fine-granularity, and is calibrated using data collected from the real-world. This allows us to try out arbitrary deployment plans to learn the optimal given specific context, before actually implementing any in the real-world systems. In particular, we propose a novel multi-agent neural search approach, in which we design a hierarchical controller to produce tentative deployment plans. The generated deployment plans are then tested using a multi-simulation paradigm, i.e., evaluated in parallel, where the results are used to train the controller with deep reinforcement learning. With this closed loop, the controller can be steered to have higher probability of generating better deployment plans in future iterations. The proposed approach has been evaluated extensively in our simulation environment, and experimental results show that it outperforms baselines e.g., human knowledge, and state-of-the-art heuristic-based optimization approaches in both service coverage and net revenue.
From ecology to atmospheric sciences, many academic disciplines deal with data characterized by intricate spatio-temporal complexities, the modeling of which often requires specialized approaches. Generative models of these data are of particular interest, as they enable a range of impactful downstream applications like simulation or creating synthetic training data. Recent work has highlighted the potential of generative adversarial nets (GANs) for generating spatio-temporal data. A new GAN algorithm COT-GAN, inspired by the theory of causal optimal transport (COT), was proposed in an attempt to better tackle this challenge. However, the task of learning more complex spatio-temporal patterns requires additional knowledge of their specific data structures. In this study, we propose a novel loss objective combined with COT-GAN based on an autoregressive embedding to reinforce the learning of spatio-temporal dynamics. We devise SPATE (spatio-temporal association), a new metric measuring spatio-temporal autocorrelation by using the deviance of observations from their expected values. We compute SPATE for real and synthetic data samples and use it to compute an embedding loss that considers space-time interactions, nudging the GAN to learn outputs that are faithful to the observed dynamics. We test this new objective on a diverse set of complex spatio-temporal patterns: turbulent flows, log-Gaussian Cox processes and global weather data. We show that our novel embedding loss improves performance without any changes to the architecture of the COT-GAN backbone, highlighting our model's increased capacity for capturing autoregressive structures. We also contextualize our work with respect to recent advances in physics-informed deep learning and interdisciplinary work connecting neural networks with geographic and geophysical sciences.