ISED: Constructing a high-resolution elevation road dataset from massive, low-quality in-situ observations derived from geosocial fitness tracking data

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLoS ONE (2017)



cycling, elevation, gps, user-generated content


Gaining access to inexpensive, high-resolution, up-to-date, three-dimensional road network data is a top priority beyond research, as such data would fuel applications in industry, governments, and the broader public alike. Road network data are openly available via user-generated content such as OpenStreetMap (OSM) but lack the resolution required for many tasks, e.g., emergency management. More importantly, however, few publicly available data offer information on elevation and slope. For most parts of the world, up-to-date digital elevation products with a resolution of less than 10 meters are a distant dream and, if available, those datasets have to be matched to the road network through an error-prone process. In this paper we present a radically different approach by deriving road network elevation data from massive amounts of in-situ observations extracted from user-contributed data from an online social fitness tracking application. While each individual observation may be of low-quality in terms of resolution and accuracy, taken together they form an accurate, high-resolution, up-to-date, three-dimensional road network that excels where other technologies such as LiDAR fail, e.g., in case of overpasses, overhangs, and so forth. In fact, the 1m spatial resolution dataset created in this research based on 350 million individual 3D location fixes has an RMSE of approximately 3.11m compared to a LiDAR-based ground-truth and can be used to enhance existing road network datasets where individual elevation fixes differ by up to 60m. In contrast, using interpolated data from the National Elevation Dataset (NED) results in 4.75m RMSE compared to the base line. We utilize Linked Data technologies to integrate the proposed high-resolution dataset with OpenStreetMap road geometries without requiring any changes to the OSM data model.