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TINYCD: A (Not So) Deep Learning Model For Change Detection

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Abstract and Figures

The aim of change detection (CD) is to detect changes occurred in the same area by comparing two images of that place taken at different times. The challenging part of the CD is to keep track of the changes the user wants to highlight, such as new buildings, and to ignore changes due to external factors such as environmental, lighting condition, fog or seasonal changes. Recent developments in the field of deep learning enabled researchers to achieve outstanding performance in this area. In particular, different mechanisms of space-time attention allowed to exploit the spatial features that are extracted from the models and to correlate them also in a temporal way by exploiting both the available images. The downside is that the models have become increasingly complex and large, often unfeasible for edge applications. These are limitations when the models must be applied to the industrial field or in applications requiring real-time performances. In this work we propose a novel model, called TinyCD, demonstrating to be both lightweight and effective, able to achieve performances comparable or even superior to the current state of the art with 13-150X fewer parameters. In our approach we have exploited the importance of low-level features to compare images. To do this, we use only few backbone blocks. This strategy allow us to keep the number of network parameters low. To compose the features extracted from the two images, we introduce a novel, economical in terms of parameters, mixing block capable of cross correlating features in both space and time domains. Finally, to fully exploit the information contained in the computed features, we define the PW-MLP block able to perform a pixel wise classification. Source code, models and results are available here:
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Andrea Codegoni
Dipartimento di Matematica "F. Casorati"
University of Pavia
Gabriele Lombardi, Alessandro Ferrari
ARGO Vision
The aim of change detection (CD) is to detect changes occurred in the same area by comparing two
images of that place taken at different times. The challenging part of the CD is to keep track of the
changes the user wants to highlight, such as new buildings, and to ignore changes due to external
factors such as environmental, lighting condition, fog or seasonal changes. Recent developments
in the field of deep learning enabled researchers to achieve outstanding performance in this area.
In particular, different mechanisms of space-time attention allowed to exploit the spatial features
that are extracted from the models and to correlate them also in a temporal way by exploiting
both the available images. The downside is that the models have become increasingly complex
and large, often unfeasible for edge applications. These are limitations when the models must be
applied to the industrial field or in applications requiring real-time performances. In this work we
propose a novel model, called TinyCD, demonstrating to be both lightweight and effective, able to
achieve performances comparable or even superior to the current state of the art with 13-150X fewer
parameters. In our approach we have exploited the importance of low-level features to compare
images. To do this, we use only few backbone blocks. This strategy allow us to keep the number
of network parameters low. To compose the features extracted from the two images, we introduce a
novel, economical in terms of parameters, mixing block capable of cross correlating features in both
space and time domains. Finally, to fully exploit the information contained in the computed features,
we define the PW-MLP block able to perform a pixel wise classification. Source code, models and
results are available here:
Keywords Change Detection (CD) ·Remote Sensing (RS) ·Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)
1 Introduction
In the Remote Sensing community, Change Detection (from now denoted with CD) is one of the main research topics.
The main purpose of CD is to construct a model able to identify changes occurred in a scene between two different
times. To this aim, a CD model compares two co-registered images acquired at times
[1]. Once the relevant
changes have been identified, such as urban expansion, deforestation or post disaster damage assessment [2
7], the
challenge is to let the CD model ignore other irrelevant changes. Examples of irrelevant changes are, but not limited to,
light conditions, shadows, and seasonal variations.
Thanks to the increasing number of available high resolution aerial images datasets, such as [2,6, 7], data driven methods
like deep Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) found successful applicability [8]. The well known ability of deep
CNNs to extract complex and relevant features from images is the key factor for their early promising results [9]. In the
CD scenario, complex features are important, but are not sufficient to accomplish the task. To highlight the occurred
changes it is in fact crucial to model the spatio-temporal dependencies between the two images. Plain CNNs have as
drawback a limited receptive field caused by the use of fixed kernels in convolutions. To overcome this issue, recent
works has focused their attention to enlarging the receptive fields by using different kernel types [10], or adding attention
mechanisms [2, 6, 11, 12, 12
14]. However, most of them failed to explicitly relate data in the temporal domain, since
attention mechanisms are applied separately on the two images. The self attention mechanism adopted in [2, 14] shows
promising results relating images spatio-temporally, but do that in a very computationally inefficient way. More recently,
Transformers have been introduced in CD because of their receptive fields spatially covering the whole image [15,16].
Notice that, by applying multi-headed attention layers in the decoder part of the network, the receptive field covers the
temporal domain too.
The CD field finds applicability also outside the remote sensing world. Our work is inspired by several industrial needs
that we are facing. In that field one additional constraint is to keep low the complexity of the model, thus reducing
machine response times. Unfortunately, the majority of State-Of-The-Art (SOTA) models proposed in literature are
millions-parameters-sized. In industrial scenarios, using such big models is not always possible. The first issue
with those models is related to the training phase. Training-time is clearly affected by the size of the model, thus
making model tuning and Hyper-Parameters-Optimization (HPO) times incompatible with the resources available in
medium-small companies. Moreover, the bigger the network, the bigger the datasets needed to prevent overfitting the
data. The dataset size is a common issue in industrial applications where collecting data is a time-consuming and
costly task. Finally, big networks require dedicated hardware both for training and inference. This is in contrast with
production requirements and project budgets.
The main purpose of our work is to develop a neural network having comparable performances with respect to the
SOTA CD models, but requiring a lower computational complexity.
The majors contributions of our work are the following:
We explore the effectiveness of using low-level features in the problem of comparing images. This approach
allowed us to validate our intuition that in this context the low-level features are sufficiently expressive.
Moreover, this allowed us to significantly limit the number of parameters of our model.
We introduce a novel strategy to mix the features between the two images. To this aim, we leverage the
grouped convolutions and a specific type of concatenation. The mixing block operates a spatio-temporal
cross-correlation between the pixels of the two input images.
A novel block called MAMB is introduced to produce skip connections. More precisely, we define an attention
mechanism that uses pixel-wise information to retrieve a skip connection mask on a per-resolution basis. The
obtained masks are exploited in the up sampling phase to refine the carried information.
To face the problem of per-pixel classification, in the last block we use the obtained channel wise information
to generate the final mask by classifying each pixel separately.
Our architecture exploits the information contained in the channels of the feature vectors generated by the backbone.
For this reason, it can effectively exploit low level features such that a relative small backbone can be adopted. Being
the backbone
the most time-consuming and parameter-demanding component in the architecture, maintaining it small
allows us to achieve our goal. In particular, this allows us to maintain the total number of parameters below
Finally, we compare the quality of the model with SOTA architectures, and we demonstrate that it has performances
comparable if not even superior to other SOTA models in the CD field. We have extensively tested our model on public
and proprietary datasets. In order to validate and make reproducible our results, in this paper we highlight the results
obtained in the field of aerial images on public datasets. Similar results in terms of efficiency and effectiveness have
been found in non-public datasets, in application fields other than that which is the subject of this paper.
The paper is organized as follows: in Chapter 2 we present some related works; in Chapter 3 we describe our proposed
model; in Chapter 4 we report the results of our model on two public available datasets, and in Chapter 5 we highlight
some future research directions.
2 Related works
Deep learning models, and in particular CNN, have been applied with great success in image comparison tasks [17
in pixel-level image classification [2022], and they represent the SOTA in many other Computer Vision tasks [23].
Models in the context of the CD must manage two inputs: one image acquired at time
, and another one acquired at
. The correct use of these two inputs and the features extracted from them are extremely important for the well
behavior of the CD model. To the best of our knowledge, the first work that applied CNN to the CD problem is [9].
In this work the authors propose two different approaches. In the first case they use a U-Net [21] type network with
1Notice that the backbone is evaluated twice in Siamese architectures.
the Early Fusion Strategy (FC-EF), i.e. they concatenate the two images taken at times
, and then they feed
the U-Net with the concatenated tensor. In the second case they use a Siamese U-Net type network [18, 22, 24] where
the two images are processed separately, and subsequently the features are fused in two different ways: concatenation
(FC-Siam-conc) and subtraction (FC-Siam-diff). These fused features are then used as skip connections in the decoder.
After this seminal work, an entire research line investigated both the Early Fusion Strategy [3,12, 25, 26], and the
Feature Fusion Strategy [2, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, 2732].
To take full advantage of the large amount of spatial information, deeper CNNs such as ResNet [33] or VGG16 [34]
have been used [2,6, 10, 14] in order to extract spatial information and group them in a hierarchical way. Although,
standard convolution has a fixed receptive field that limits the capacity of modelling the context of the image. To face
this issue, atrous convolutions [35] have been experimented [10]: they are able to enlarge the receptive field of the
single convolutional kernel without increasing the number of parameters. To definitively overcome the problem of fixed
receptive field, attention mechanisms, in the form of spatial attention [6, 11, 12], channel wise attention [6, 11
and also self-attention [2, 14], have been introduced. In [6], the attention mechanisms are used in the decoder part:
the channel wise attention is used to re-weight each pixel after the fusion with the skip connections, while the spatial
attention is adopted to spatially re-weight the pixels containing misleading information due to the up sampling step.
To further exploit the interconnection between spatial and channel information, in [11] a dual attention module is
introduced. The co-attention module introduced in [13] tries to leverage correlation between features extracted from
both images. Also in [13] a co-layer aggregation and a pyramid structure is used to make full use of the features
extracted at each level and with different receptive fields. In [2], the non-local self attention introduced in [36], is used.
This mechanism consists in stacking the features extracted from a Siamese backbone to apply them both a basic spatial
attention mechanism, and a pyramidal attention mechanism. Since these two attention blocks are applied to stacked
and t2features, these are correlated in a non-local spatio-temporal way.
Finally, we mention that the global attention mechanisms introduced with Transformers [37,38] have also been applied
to the CD problem. In [15] the authors employ a modified ResNet18 as Siamese backbone to extract features. Then, to
better justify the use of Transformer blocks, they follow a parallelism between the natural language processing field,
and the image processing one, by introducing the semantic tokens. Roughly speaking, semantic tokens are the pixels of
the last feature tensor extracted by the backbone. The authors use this concept to illustrate that concatenating single
pixels and then processing them with a transformer encoder-decoder, a pair of features tensors can be obtained that
incorporates both global spatial information, and global temporal information. On the other side, in [16] the authors
replace the CNN backbone with a transformer in order to exploit the global information contained in the images right
from the start. In this model, the temporal aggregation is done only in the final multilayer perceptron decoder.
Our work is inspired by [15]. In fact, we believe that the information contained in each single pixel at different
resolutions, i.e. the semantic tokens, are essential for the final classification, and also they are more important than the
global context provided by spatial attention. Moreover, our intuition is that, since we can compare two images, we
can use only low level features to highlight the changes occurred in time. To these extents, we designed a Siamese
U-Net type network where the backbone is represented by the first 4 blocks of EfficientNetb4 [39]. To better fuse the
information contained in channels in a spatio-temporal way, we introduce a mixing strategy that forces the network to
fuse and compare features in a semantically consistent way between the features extracted at times
. Finally, to
exploit all the information contained in each pixel/semantic token, we heavily applied multi layer perceptrons (MLP)
on each pixel/semantic token. MLP are used to create spatial attention mask skip connections in the U-Net structure.
Moreover, they have been applied in the classification block to classify each pixel.
3 Proposed model
In this section we describe and motivate the structure of our model. We use a Siamese U-Net like model consisting of 4
main components:
Siamese encoders constituted by a pre-trained backbone (see Section 3.2).
Mix and Attention Mask Block (MAMB) and bottleneck mixing block to compose backbone results (see
Section 3.3).
Up-sample decoder to refine low resolution results incorporating higher resolution data from the skip connec-
tions (see Section 3.4).
Pixel level classifier (see Section 3.5)
In what follows, we denote with
the reference tensor (image at time
) and with
the comparison tensor (image at time
is the number of channels,
is the height and
the width of the tensors.
Figure 1: Siamese U-Net like architecture including MAMB.
We omit the batch dimension for the ease of notation. We denote with
the convolution operator, with
the Parametric Rectified Linear Unit [40], with IN2d the Instance Normalization [41], and with Sigmoid the Sigmoid
3.1 Model overview
Indicating with
the composition of the backbone blocks up to the
one, the high-level features
are extracted from each level
of the backbone. These features are used both to compute the resulting
output at each level of the U-Net encoder, and to estimate the attention masks. The last backbone block produces the
embeddings Xeand Yerepresenting the bottleneck inputs.
Every backbone intermediate output pair
(Xk, Yk)
is processed by means of the MAMB producing spatial attention
. These masks are used as skip-connections and composed in the decoder. The last mixed tensor is obtained
by composing (Xe, Ye).
The decoder consists of a series of up-layers, one for each block of the backbone. Each up-layer increases the spatial
dimensions of the tensor received from the previous layer to reach the same resolution of the corresponding skip-
connection. Furthermore, the up sampled tensors and the skip-connections are composed to generate the next layer
inputs. This composition is the attention mask application to the features obtained from the previous layer.
Finally, the last block of our model classifies each pixel of the obtained tensor through a Pixel-Wise Multi-Layer
Perceptron (PW-MLP). The PW-MLP associates to each pixel the probability that it belongs to the anomaly class.
Applying a threshold to this tensor we obtain the binary mask of changes.
In the following subsections we describe each component separately.
3.2 Siamese encoders with pre-trained backbone
The purpose of the Siamese encoder is to extract simultaneously features from both images in a semantic coherent way.
In deep neural networks, training the first layers of the model is sometimes difficult due to the well-known phenomenon
of vanishing gradients [42, 43]. To overcome this problem, several tricks have been introduced such as the residual
connections of ResNet [33] or the skip connections of U-Net [21]. However, training deep backbones remains a difficult,
time-consuming, or even impossible task to accomplish if the dataset is too small.
For these reasons, pre-trained backbones are often preferred, even in CD problems [2,6, 10,14, 15]. The disadvantage of
this approach is that the backbones are not always trained on images that are similar to the ones we are dealing with.
However, CNN backbones work by layering information. Low-level features, such as lines, black/white spots, points,
edges, can be considered general-purpose being common to all images.
In our intuition, in the faced task the comparison between two images acquired at times
can be accomplished
by using just the low-level features extracted from the first few layers of a pre-trained backbone.
We therefore decided to use one EfficientNet backbone [39] pre-trained on the ImageNet dataset [44]. We allowed the
training phase to tune all the backbone parameters during the update of all the other network parameters. We have
chosen the EfficientNet backbone family due to both its efficacy and its efficiency. Moreover, the resolution reduction
in the first EfficientNet layers is sufficiently slow in order to create skip connections of different spatial dimensions.
3.3 Mix and Attention Mask Block (MAMB) and bottleneck mixing block
The purpose of this block is to merge the features
(Xk, Yk)
extracted from one of the blocks of the Siamese encoder. It
creates a mask
that is then used as skip connection to refine the information obtained during the up sampling phase.
The mask we create can also be understood as a pixel-level attention mechanism. The idea of pixel-wise attention has
been already studied in [45]. Here we specifically designed a pixel-wise attention mechanism exploiting both spatial
and temporal information.
The MAMB can be divided into two sub-blocks: the Mixing block (see Section 3.3.1), and the Pixel level mask
generator (see Section 3.3.2).
3.3.1 Mixing block
As the name suggests, in this sub-block we compose the features generated by the
backbone block
(Xk, Yk)
. To
this aim, we observe that the features
, share both the same shape
Ck, Hk, Wk
, and the same arrangement
in terms of features. This means that the features in channel
have the same semantic meaning with respect to
the corresponding features in channel
, being the Siamese encoder weights shared. In view of this observation,
we decided to concatenate the tensors Xkand Ykin the tensor ZkR2Ck×Hk×Wkusing the following rule:
k:= (Xc/2
kif cis even
kotherwise c {0,1..., 2Ck1}.(1)
To mix the features coming from
both spatially and temporally, we used a group convolution. By choosing
the number of groups equal to
we obtain
kernels of depth 2 which process the tensor
in pairs of channels.
These kernels perform at the same time both spatial and temporal convolution using the cross-correlation between
semantically similar features.
The new tensor Z
kRCk×Hk×Wkis defined as:
k= Mix(Xk, Yk) := PReLU [IN2d [Conv(Zk, chin = 2Ck, chout =Ck, groups =Ck)]] .(2)
An illustration of our concatenation strategy, and the following grouped convolution, is reported in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Visual representation of our concatenation strategy (1) and the grouped convolution (2).
3.3.2 Pixel-level mask generator
Fixing the spatial coordinates of a single pixel, the
values in the tensor
contain spatial information related to
both times
. Our idea is to use the PW-MLP in order to process this information and generate a score that acts
as a spatio-temporal attention.
To this aim, the PW-MLP is designed to produce a mask tensor MkRH×W.
3.3.3 PW-MLP
To implement a pixel-wise Multi-Layer Perceptron, that is an MLP working on all the channels of one single pixel at a
time, we use
convolutions. The MLP is composed by
blocks each containing one
convolution and one
activation function. As activation, we used the
, being this able to propagate gradients also on the negative side
of the real axis. The last convolution contains just one filter, thus producing a tensor
with dimensions
1, Hk, Wk
The use of
convolutions to implement an MLP is not a new idea. In [46] this strategy has been used to substitute
layers such as convolutions with small, trainable, networks. As pointed out in [46], we have very poor prior information
on the latent concepts in pixel vectors. Hence, we have decided to use this universal function approximator to separate
different semantic concepts.
3.3.4 The bottleneck mixing block
We applied the tensor mixing strategy reported in Section 3.3.1 to compute the bottleneck of the U-Net like network.
More precisely, we compute: Ue=Z
e= Mix(Xe, Ye).
represents the output of the encoder and the input to be processed by the decoder.
contains the higher level
features extracted by the backbone and correlated both spatially and temporarily. Given that, our intuition is that
contains enough information in order to classify each pixel at the bottleneck resolution.
3.4 Up-sample decoder with skip connections
The general
th decoder block takes as input the tensor
of shape
Ck+1, Hk+1 , Wk+1
and a mask
of shape
1, Hk, Wk
generated by one MAMB. Firstly, an up sampling operation is performed in order to transform
so that
its shape matches the one of Mk. We call the up sampled tensor U
k. Then, we define Ukwith
Uk= Up(Uk+1, Mk) := PReLU [IN2d [Conv(U
kMk)]] ,
where we have denoted with the symbol
the Hadamard product. This represents the skip connection attention
mechanism at the pixel level.
As we already mentioned in Section 3.3.4,
contains enough information to classify each pixel at its spatial resolution.
By multiplying the mask
we are re-weighting each pixel in order to alleviate the misleading information generated
by up sampling.
Notice that, in this Up block we employ the depth wise separable convolution [47,48].
3.5 Pixel level classifier
Finally, since the change detection problem is a binary classification problem, we decided to use as last layer a PW-MLP
with output classes
representing respectively normal and change pixels. With respect to what reported in
Section 3.3.3, in this case we used as the last activation layer a
function instead of the
, thus enforcing
the result of the network to contain values in
. In this case, the PW-MLP is used as a non-linear classifier which
separates pixels in normal or changed.
4 Experiment Settings and Results
In this section we present the settings used in our experiments, and we report the achieved results.
4.1 Datasets
As already stated in Section 1, we cannot share the dataset related to our industrial application. Moreover, in order to
fairly evaluate our model, and to compare it with other works in the CD field, we used the following public and widely
adopted aerial images building datasets: LEVIR-CD [2] and WHU-CD [7]
. Notice that the task defined by these
datasets is particularly close to the faced industrial one, that is the driver of our research work. In these two datasets
the model has to track some specific patters, those corresponding to buildings, and carefully segments the eventually
occurred changes.
LEVIR-CD contains 637 pairs of high resolution aerial images. Starting from these images, patch pairs of size
256 ×256
each have been extracted. After that, the pair instances have been partitioned accordingly to the authors’
Both the adopted dataset have been obtained from
in an already pre-processed version.
original indications. This step produced 7120, 1024, and 2048 pair instances for the train, validation, and test dataset
WHU-CD contains just one pair of images having resolution
32507 ×15354
as a crop of a wider geographic area
Following [49], the images have been split in non overlapping patches with resolution
256 ×256
. After that, a randomly
partitioning of the dataset have been performed obtaining 5947, 743, and 744 pairs for train, validation, and test
4.2 Implementation details
We implemented our model using PyTorch [50] and we trained it on an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GPU. As
described in Section 3.2, we selected the first four blocks of the EfficientNet version
backbone pretrained on the
ImageNet dataset. All other weights of the model have been initialized randomly4.
As optimizer we adopted AdamW [51], tuning its hyperparameters with the package Neural Network Intelligence
(NNI) [52]. More precisely, we tuned the learning-rate, the weight decay, and the usage of the optimizer amsgrad variant.
Due to computational resource limitations, no other hyperparameters have been tuned. We have not experimented any
network architecture search technique (NAS). To dynamically adjust the learning rate during the training, we opted for
the cosine annealing strategy as described in [53], but avoiding the warm restart.
Since aerial images are spatially registered, we applied as data augmentation both Random Flip and Random Rotation
simultaneously to the reference/comparison images and their associated ground-truth mask. Moreover, Gaussian Blur
and Random Brightness/Contrast changes have been applied independently on the reference and the comparison images
respectively. 5
Finally, due to the limited GPU memory capacity and computational power, we fixed the batch size to 8, and trained for
just 100 epochs.
4.3 Loss function and evaluation metrics
Since the CD problem is a binary classification problem, we used the Binary Cross Entropy (BCE) loss function,
L(G, P ) := 1
gh,w log(ph,w) + (1 gh,w) log(1 ph,w ),
where we denoted
the ground truth mask,
the model prediction, and with a little abuse of notation,
set of indices relative to height and width and whose cardinalities are |H|and |W|respectively.
To evaluate the performances achieved by our model, we calculated the following indicators with respect to the change
Precision P r := T P
T P +F P ,
Recall Rc := T P
T P +F N ,
F1 score F1 := 1
P r1+Rc1,
Intersection over Union IoU := T P
F N +F P +T P ,
Overall Accuracy OA := T P +T N
F N +F P +T P +T N ,
are computed on the change class and represent the true positives, true negatives, false
positives, and false negatives respectively. To retrieve the change mask we applied a 0.5threshold to the output mask.
The whole dataset depicts the city of Christchurch, in New Zealand. The crop, aimed to be used in CD tasks, is a sub-area
acquired in two different times.
4To make our results reproducible, we fixed the random seed at the beginning of each experiment.
5To achieve all the adopted augmentations, we used the Albumentation library [54].
4.4 Comparison with state-of-the-art
To demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, we compared our results with those reported in [15,16]. As baseline,
we used the three models present in [9]. Moreover, to compare our model with other works adopting both spatial and
channel attention mechanisms, we dealt with [2, 6, 11, 31]. Finally, given the success achieved by Transformers applied
to the computer vision field, we also compared the results obtained in [15, 16].
Table 1: Performance metrics on the LEVIR-CD dataset. To improve results readability, we adopted a color ranking
convention representing the First,Second, and Third results. The metrics are reported in percentage.
Model Pr Rc F1 IoU OA
FC-EF [9] 86.91 80.17 83.40 71.53 98.39
FC-Siam-diff [9] 89.53 83.31 86.31 75.92 98.67
FC-Siam-conc [9] 91.99 76.77 83.69 71.96 98.49
DTCDSCN [11] 88.53 86.83 87.67 78.05 98.77
STANet [2] 83.81 91.00 87.26 77.40 98.66
IFNet [6] 94.02 82.93 88.13 78.77 98.87
SNUNet [31] 89.18 87.17 88.16 78.83 98.82
BIT [15] 89.24 89.37 89.31 80.68 98.92
Changeformer [16]
92.05 88.80 90.40 82.48 99.04
Ours 92.68 89.47 91.05 83.57 99.10
Table 2: Performance metrics on the WHU-CD dataset. To improve results readability, we adopted a color ranking
convention representing the First,Second, and Third results. The metrics are reported in percentage.
Model Pr Rc F1 IoU OA
FC-EF [9] 71.63 67.25 69.37 53.11 97.61
FC-Siam-diff [9] 47.33 77.66 58.81 41.66 95.63
FC-Siam-conc [9] 60.88 73.58 66.63 49.95 97.04
DTCDSCN [11] 63.92 82.30 71.95 56.19 97.42
STANet [2] 79.37 85.50 82.32 69.95 98.52
IFNet [6] 96.91 73.19 83.40 71.52 98.83
SNUNet [31] 85.60 81.49 83.50 71.67 98.71
BIT [15] 86.64 81.48 83.98 72.39 98.75
Ours 92.22 90.74 91.48 84.30 99.32
4.5 Discussion of results
The results reported in Table 1 and Table 2 show the superior performance of our model on these two building change
detection datasets. The baseline models FC-Siam-diff and FC-Siam-conc [9] are probably the architectures most similar
to ours. With respect to these two baseline models, we increased the F1 score by 4.73 points on LEVIR-CD, and by
more than 20 points on the WHU-CD. With respect to the best model we found in the literature [16], the performance
increment on the LEVIR-CD dataset is smaller. However, as we can see from Table 3, our model is 146.50 times
Table 3: Parameters, complexity and performance comparison. The metrics are reported in percentage, parameters in
millions (M) and complexity in GigaFLOPs (G).
Model Parameters (M) Parameters
ratio FLOPs (G) LEVIR-CD
DTCDSCN [11] 41.07 146.67 7.21 87.67 71.95
STANet [2] 16.93 60.46 6.58 87.26 82.32
IFNet [6] 50.71 181.10 41.18 88.13 83.40
SNUNet [31] 12.03 42.96 27.44 88.16 83.50
BIT [15] 3.55 12.67 4.35 89.31 83.98
Changeformer [16]
41.02 146.50 N.D. 90.40 N.D.
Ours 0.28 1 1.54 91.04 91.48
In view of these results, we can conclude that our model, despite the lower complexity and the lower number of
employed parameters, is very effective on the buildings CD task. Moreover, having not used any global attention
mechanism, we have a confirmation of our intuitions: in the faced CD task, low level information is sufficient to reach
high-quality results. Also, the information contained in each single pixel at different resolutions is very rich and can be
exploited to effectively classify changes.
Figure 3: Visualization of the intermediate masks at different resolutions and the final binary mask for one example
image pair.
In Figure 3 we reported an example of the intermediate masks that our model creates in skip-connections. As can be
seen, the intermediate resolution masks have captured some semantics of the scene partially classifying the pixels’
content. Hence, as can be seen comparing the ground truth binary mask (GT) with that generated by our model, the
final result is very sharp and detailed. Moreover, unlike usual skip connections, our mechanism is lighter in terms of
parameters, it does not impose major limitations on the number of used features, and finally it makes the role of skip
connections more interpretable.
To quantitatively confirm the usefulness of skip connections, we trained a model without them and compared the
achieved results in Table 4. As can be seen, all the metrics confirm the beneficial effects of skip connections in the
model. Since the Recall index increased, we deduce that the skip connection model lowered the number of false
negatives by better segmenting the various changes between the two images.
In Table 5 we compare our bottleneck mixing block described in Section 3.3.1 with other possible and simple feature
fusion block. We replace the mixing block Section 3.3.1 with:
Concatenation + Depth wise separable convolution;
Concatenation + Convolution.
Our mixing strategy is a generalization of the pixel-wise subtraction
. However, our mixing block Section 3.3.1 is fully
trainable with the spirit of feature re-use [55]. Also, concatenation with depth-wise separable convolution and standard
convolution can be seen as generalizations of subtraction, but the number of parameters to achieve these generalizations
is much bigger than ours. Generally speaking, the number of parameters needed by our mixing block is
c(2 ·kh·kw)
In fact, if we initialize all of our 2-depth kernels with the "central" weights to
and all the rest to
, we have the standard
Table 4: Performance comparison between the model with/without skip connections on both datasets LEVIR-CD and
Model type Pr Rc F1 IoU OA
No Skip 92.35 88.50 90.38 82.45 99.04
Skip 92.68 89.47 91.05 83.57 99.10
Model type Pr Rc F1 IoU OA
No Skip 90.56 89.77 90.16 82.09 99.22
Skip 92.22 90.74 91.48 84.30 99.32
is the number of channels,
are the convolutional kernel sizes. The parentheses are highlighting the size
of each kernel and the number of kernels. By comparison, a convolution working on the concatenated feature tensors
parameters. Even with a more cheap depth wise separable convolution we have
parameters, that means
more than our proposed strategy. In addition to the savings on the number of parameters,
from Table 5 we see that our strategy appears to be the one that achieves the best performance. This shows that our
feature fusion strategy is effective and also very efficient and cheap in terms of number of parameters.
Table 5: Performance comparison between the model with our mixing strategy and a simple concatenation and
convolution on both datasets LEVIR-CD and WHU-CD.
Model type Pr Rc F1 IoU OA Param. tot.
Subtraction 92.36 89.11 90.70 82.99 99.06 284063
Depth. Sep. 92.81 89.01 90.87 83.27 99.08 291513
Concat + conv 92.90 88.23 90.81 83.18 99.08 340568
Mix + grouped 92.68 89.47 91.05 83.57 99.10 285128
Model type Pr Rc F1 IoU OA Param. tot.
Subtraction 90.32 87.95 89.12 80.38 99.14 284063
Depth. Sep. 91.33 89.05 90.18 82.11 99.23 291513
Concat + conv 91.31 90.66 90.98 83.46 99.28 340568
Mix + grouped 92.22 90.74 91.48 84.30 99.32 285128
In Figure 4 a visual/qualitative comparison between the masks created by our model and those created by BIT [15] on
the LEVIR-CD test dataset is reported. Generally speaking, both models perform well and we end up our analysis by
conjecturing that the performance difference reported in Table 1 and Table 2 are more related to missing or hallucinated
change regions, than region quality issues. Nevertheless, we can find some examples were there are significant
differences between the ground truth mask (GT) and that created by the two models. In Figure 4 it is interesting to note
that there are examples where both models fail similarly in the same region, despite the two models are based on very
different approaches (local versus global).
5 Conclusions and future works
Guided by industrial needs, we proposed a tiny convolutional change-detection Siamese U-Net like model.
Our model exploits low-level features by comparing and classifying them to obtain a binary map of detected changes.
We propose a mixing block, introducing the ability to compare/compose features on both spatial and temporal domains.
Figure 4: Visual comparison between our model and BIT. We highlighted with red bounding boxes those regions
containing significant differences between the ground-truth and the generated masks.
The proposed PW-MLP block, shows a great ability in extracting features useful to classify occurred changes on a
per-pixel basis. The composition of these proposed blocks, here referred as MAMB, show the ability to estimate masks
useful to enrich features used in the U-Net decoder part. We have shown that an effective way to generate the output
mask is to process low-level backbone features in a PW-MLP block, effectively facing the change-detection task as a
per-pixel classification problem.
We tested our model on public change-detection datasets containing aerial images acquired in two different times.
Furthermore, we compared the achieved results with state-of-the-art models proposed in the change-detection literature.
Our tests demonstrated that our model performs comparably or better than the current state-of-the-art models, remaining
at the same time the smaller and faster one.
The ideas employed in this work can be also applied to other fields. For this reason, we will investigate the application
of MAMB and PW-MLP blocks to tasks such as anomaly-detection, surveillance and semantic segmentation.
The authors want to thank the whole Argo Vision team, professor Stefano Gualandi, Gabriele Loli and Gennaro
Auricchio for the useful discussion and comments. We also want to thank all those who have provided their codes in an
accessible and reproducible way. The scholarship of Andrea Codegoni is founded by SeaVision s.r.l..
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Full-text available
This study presents a new end-to-end change detection network, called difference-enhancement dense-attention convolutional neural network (DDCNN), that is designed for detection of changes in the bitemporal optical remote sensing images. To model the internal correlation between high-level and low-level features, a dense attention method consisting of several up-sampling attention units is proposed. Both the up-sampling spatial and up-sampling channel attention are adopted by the unit. The unit, which can use high-level features with rich category information to guide the selection of low-level features, can use the spatial context information to capture the changed features of ground objects. Furthermore, DDCNN also pays attention to the differentiating features of the bitemporal images. By introducing a DE unit, each pixel is weighted and the features are selectively aggregated. The combination of dense attention and the DE unit improves the effectiveness of the network and its accuracy in extracting the change features. The effectiveness of the proposed approach is demonstrated via five challenge data sets. The experimental results show that DDCNN achieves new state-of-the-art change detection performance on these five challenging data sets. For the seasonal change detection data set in particular, compared with the best existing change detection model, the proposed method increases the F1 score and IoU by 2.96% and 5.17%, respectively; compared with the baseline method, our method improved 3.75% and 6.50% on the F1 score and IoU, respectively.
Full-text available
Deep learning (DL) algorithms are considered as a methodology of choice for remote-sensing image analysis over the past few years. Due to its effective applications, deep learning has also been introduced for automatic change detection and achieved great success. The present study attempts to provide a comprehensive review and a meta-analysis of the recent progress in this subfield. Specifically, we first introduce the fundamentals of deep learning methods which are frequently adopted for change detection. Secondly, we present the details of the meta-analysis conducted to examine the status of change detection DL studies. Then, we focus on deep learning-based change detection methodologies for remote sensing images by giving a general overview of the existing methods. Specifically, these deep learning-based methods were classified into three groups; fully supervised learning-based methods, fully unsupervised learning-based methods and transfer learning-based techniques. As a result of these investigations, promising new directions were identified for future research. This study will contribute in several ways to our understanding of deep learning for change detection and will provide a basis for further research.
Full-text available
Remote sensing image change detection (CD) is done to identify desired significant changes between bitemporal images. Given two co-registered images taken at different times, the illumination variations and misregistration errors overwhelm the real object changes. Exploring the relationships among different spatial–temporal pixels may improve the performances of CD methods. In our work, we propose a novel Siamese-based spatial–temporal attention neural network. In contrast to previous methods that separately encode the bitemporal images without referring to any useful spatial–temporal dependency, we design a CD self-attention mechanism to model the spatial–temporal relationships. We integrate a new CD self-attention module in the procedure of feature extraction. Our self-attention module calculates the attention weights between any two pixels at different times and positions and uses them to generate more discriminative features. Considering that the object may have different scales, we partition the image into multi-scale subregions and introduce the self-attention in each subregion. In this way, we could capture spatial–temporal dependencies at various scales, thereby generating better representations to accommodate objects of various sizes. We also introduce a CD dataset LEVIR-CD, which is two orders of magnitude larger than other public datasets of this field. LEVIR-CD consists of a large set of bitemporal Google Earth images, with 637 image pairs (1024 × 1024) and over 31 k independently labeled change instances. Our proposed attention module improves the F1-score of our baseline model from 83.9 to 87.3 with acceptable computational overhead. Experimental results on a public remote sensing image CD dataset show our method outperforms several other state-of-the-art methods.
Modern change detection (CD) has achieved remarkable success by the powerful discriminative ability of deep convolutions. However, high-resolution remote sensing CD remains challenging due to the complexity of objects in the scene. Objects with the same semantic concept may show distinct spectral characteristics at different times and spatial locations. Most recent CD pipelines using pure convolutions are still struggling to relate long-range concepts in space-time. Nonlocal self-attention approaches show promising performance via modeling dense relationships among pixels, yet are computationally inefficient. Here, we propose a bitemporal image transformer (BIT) to efficiently and effectively model contexts within the spatial-temporal domain. Our intuition is that the high-level concepts of the change of interest can be represented by a few visual words, that is, semantic tokens. To achieve this, we express the bitemporal image into a few tokens and use a transformer encoder to model contexts in the compact token-based space-time. The learned context-rich tokens are then fed back to the pixel-space for refining the original features via a transformer decoder. We incorporate BIT in a deep feature differencing-based CD framework. Extensive experiments on three CD datasets demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed method. Notably, our BIT-based model significantly outperforms the purely convolutional baseline using only three times lower computational costs and model parameters. Based on a naive backbone (ResNet18) without sophisticated structures (e.g., feature pyramid network (FPN) and UNet), our model surpasses several state-of-the-art CD methods, including better than four recent attention-based methods in terms of efficiency and accuracy. Our code is available at .
Training deep learning-based change detection (CD) models heavily relies on large labeled data sets. However, it is time-consuming and labor-intensive to collect large-scale bitemporal images that contain building change, due to both its rarity and sparsity. Contemporary methods to tackle the data insufficiency mainly focus on transformation-based global image augmentation and cost-sensitive algorithms. In this article, we propose a novel data-level solution, namely, Instance-level change Augmentation (IAug), to generate bitemporal images that contain changes involving plenty and diverse buildings by leveraging generative adversarial training. The key of IAug is to blend synthesized building instances onto appropriate positions of one of the bitemporal images. To achieve this, a building generator is employed to produce realistic building images that are consistent with the given layouts. Diverse styles are later transferred onto the generated images. We further propose context-aware blending for a realistic composite of the building and the background. We augment the existing CD data sets and also design a simple yet effective CD model—CD network (CDNet). Our method (CDNet + IAug) has achieved state-of-the-art results in two building CD data sets (LEVIR-CD and WHU-CD). Interestingly, we achieve comparable results with only 20% of the training data as the current state-of-the-art methods using 100% data. Extensive experiments have validated the effectiveness of the proposed IAug. Our augmented data set has a lower risk of class imbalance than the original one. Conventional learning on the synthesized data set outperforms several popular cost-sensitive algorithms on the original data set. Our code and data are available at .
In recent years, building change detection methods have made great progress by introducing deep learning, but they still suffer from the problem of the extracted features not being discriminative enough, resulting in incomplete regions and irregular boundaries. To tackle this problem, we propose a dual-task constrained deep Siamese convolutional network (DTCDSCN) model, which contains three subnetworks: a change detection network and two semantic segmentation networks. DTCDSCN can accomplish both change detection and semantic segmentation at the same time, which can help to learn more discriminative object-level features and obtain a complete change detection map. Furthermore, we introduce a dual attention module (DAM) to exploit the interdependencies between channels and spatial positions, which improves the feature representation. We also improve the focal loss function to suppress the sample imbalance problem. The experimental results obtained with the WHU building data set show that the proposed method is effective for building change detection and achieves state-of-the-art performance in terms of four metrics on the WHU building data set: precision, recall, F1-score, and intersection over union.
Change detection by comparing two bitemporal images is one of the most challenging tasks in remote sensing. At present, most related studies focus on change area detection while neglecting multiple change type identification. In this letter, an attention gates generative adversarial adaptation network (AG-GAAN) is proposed on multiple change detection. The AG-GAAN has the following contributions: 1) this method can automatically detect multiple changes; 2) it includes attention gates mechanism for spatial constraint and accelerates change area identification with finer contours; and 3) the domain similarity loss is introduced to improve the discriminability of the model so that the model can map out real changes more accurately. To demonstrate the robustness of this approach, we used the Google Earth data sets that include seasonal variations for change detection and understanding. The experimental results demonstrated that the proposed method can accurately detect the multiple change types from bitemporal imagery.
Change detection in high resolution remote sensing images is crucial to the understanding of land surface changes. As traditional change detection methods are not suitable for the task considering the challenges brought by the fine image details and complex texture features conveyed in high resolution images, a number of deep learning-based change detection methods have been proposed to improve the change detection performance. Although the state-of-the-art deep feature based methods outperform all the other deep learning-based change detection methods, networks in the existing deep feature based methods are mostly modified from architectures that are originally proposed for single-image semantic segmentation. Transferring these networks for change detection task still poses some key issues. In this paper, we propose a deeply supervised image fusion network (IFN) for change detection in high resolution bi-temporal remote sensing images. Specifically, highly representative deep features of bi-temporal images are firstly extracted through a fully convolutional two-stream architecture. Then, the extracted deep features are fed into a deeply supervised difference discrimination network (DDN) for change detection. To improve boundary completeness and internal compactness of objects in the output change maps, multi-level deep features of raw images are fused with image difference features by means of attention modules for change map reconstruction. DDN is further enhanced by directly introducing change map losses to intermediate layers in the network, and the whole network is trained in an end-to-end manner. IFN is applied to a publicly available dataset, as well as a challenging dataset consisting of multi-source bi-temporal images from Google Earth covering different cities in China. Both visual interpretation and quantitative assessment confirm that IFN outperforms four benchmark methods derived from the literature, by returning changed areas with complete boundaries and high internal compactness compared to the state-of-the-art methods.