A common way to deal with spatial data in R is the sf package, which is built on the concept of simple features. According to the the sf package vignette, simple features are “…a formal standard (ISO 19125-1:2004) that describes how objects in the real world can be represented in computers, with emphasis on the spatial geometry of these objects. It also describes how such objects can be stored in and retrieved from databases, and which geometrical operations should be defined for them.”

The most common geometry types of simple features are: POINT, LINESTRING, POLYGON, MULTIPOINT, MULTILINESTRING, MULTIPOLYGON. All geometry types are based on POINTs. This package supports the encoding and decoding of the geometry types POINT, LINESTRING and POLYGON.

There are four possible dimension combinations of geometries in the sf package. In the flexpolyine package the first three dimension combinations are supported and represented as follows:

  • XY: Represented as line with LNG and LAT dimensions.
  • XYZ: Represented as line with LNG, LAT and LEVEL/ALTITUDE/ELEVATION as third dimension.
  • XYM: Represented as line with LNG, LAT and CUSTOM1/CUSTOM2 as third dimension.
  • XYZM: Not supported.

Encoding and decoding

Simple feature geometry (sfg)

If no value for third_dim is provided in encode_sf(), the dimensions of the sf geometry are considered. In case of "XYZ" the third dimension is set to "ELEVATION" and thereby recognized again as "XYZ" by decode_sf() during decoding:

library(flexpolyline)
library(sf)
#> Linking to GEOS 3.9.1, GDAL 3.3.2, PROJ 7.2.1

coords <- matrix(
    c(8.69821, 50.10228, 10.11111,
      8.69567, 50.10201, 20.22222,
      8.69150, 50.10063, 30.33333,
      8.68752, 50.09878, 40.44444),
    ncol = 3, byrow = TRUE
)

(sfg_z <- st_linestring(coords, dim = "XYZ"))
#> LINESTRING Z (8.69821 50.10228 10.11111, 8.69567 50.10201 20.22222, 8.6915 50.10063 30.33333, 8.68752 50.09878 40.44444)

(sfg_enc_z <- encode_sf(sfg_z))
#> [1] "B1Voz5xJ67i1Bu629B1B7Pu629BzIhau629BxL7Yu629B"

decode_sf(sfg_enc_z)
#> Simple feature collection with 1 feature and 2 fields
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XYZ
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 8.68752 ymin: 50.09878 xmax: 8.69821 ymax: 50.10228
#> z_range:       zmin: 10.11111 zmax: 40.44444
#> CRS:           NA
#>   id      dim3                       geometry
#> 1  1 ELEVATION LINESTRING Z (8.69821 50.10...

In case of "XYM" the third dimension is set to "CUSTOM1" and again set to "XYM" in decoding:

(sfg_m <- st_linestring(coords, dim = "XYM"))
#> LINESTRING M (8.69821 50.10228 10.11111, 8.69567 50.10201 20.22222, 8.6915 50.10063 30.33333, 8.68752 50.09878 40.44444)

(sfg_enc_m <- encode_sf(sfg_m))
#> [1] "BlXoz5xJ67i1Bu629B1B7Pu629BzIhau629BxL7Yu629B"

decode_sf(sfg_enc_m)
#> Simple feature collection with 1 feature and 2 fields
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XYM
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 8.68752 ymin: 50.09878 xmax: 8.69821 ymax: 50.10228
#> m_range:       mmin: 10.11111 mmax: 40.44444
#> CRS:           NA
#>   id    dim3                       geometry
#> 1  1 CUSTOM1 LINESTRING M (8.69821 50.10...

Simple feature geometry list-column (sfc)

The geometry column in simple feature data sets is called simple feature geometry list-column. The sfc object has a Coordinate Reference System (CRS) assigned. In the case of longitude and latitude data this is most often WGS84 (EPSG: 4326). Objects of type sfc are supported as input in encoding:

(sfc <- st_as_sfc(
  lapply(seq(1, 5), function(x) {
    st_linestring(coords[, 1:2] + runif(1, -1, 1), dim = "XY")
  }),
  crs = 4326
))
#> Geometry set for 5 features 
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XY
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 7.890188 ymin: 49.30145 xmax: 8.474591 ymax: 49.87866
#> Geodetic CRS:  WGS 84
#> LINESTRING (8.371956 49.77603, 8.369416 49.7757...
#> LINESTRING (8.130972 49.53504, 8.128432 49.5347...
#> LINESTRING (8.474591 49.87866, 8.472051 49.8783...
#> LINESTRING (8.289285 49.69336, 8.286745 49.6930...
#> LINESTRING (7.900878 49.30495, 7.898338 49.3046...

(sfc_enc <- encode_sf(sfc))
#> [1] "BFm85vJ4kjzB1B7PzIhaxL7Y" "BFg6quJyi0xB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"
#> [3] "BF09twJmm3zB1B7PzIhaxL7Y" "BFw3pvJigzyB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"
#> [5] "BF-79sJwknwB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"

decode_sf(sfc_enc, crs = 4326)
#> Simple feature collection with 5 features and 2 fields
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XY
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 7.89019 ymin: 49.30145 xmax: 8.47459 ymax: 49.87866
#> Geodetic CRS:  WGS 84
#>   id   dim3                       geometry
#> 1  1 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.37196 49.7760...
#> 2  2 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.13097 49.5350...
#> 3  3 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.47459 49.8786...
#> 4  4 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.28929 49.6933...
#> 5  5 ABSENT LINESTRING (7.90088 49.3049...

Simple feature (sf)

A simple feature is a geometry that is connected with further characteristics (other than it’s coordinates), which in practice means a data.frame (also data.table or tibble) with an sfc column. The flexpolyline package only takes care of the coordinates of the LINESTRINGs in the sf object, other columns and the CRS information are not encoded and stored in the string:

(sf <- st_as_sf(
  data.frame(
    name = c("A", "B", "C", "D", "E"),
    color = sample(c("red", "green", "blue"), 5, replace = TRUE),
    geometry = sfc
  )
))
#> Simple feature collection with 5 features and 2 fields
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XY
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 7.890188 ymin: 49.30145 xmax: 8.474591 ymax: 49.87866
#> Geodetic CRS:  WGS 84
#>   name color                       geometry
#> 1    A  blue LINESTRING (8.371956 49.776...
#> 2    B  blue LINESTRING (8.130972 49.535...
#> 3    C  blue LINESTRING (8.474591 49.878...
#> 4    D  blue LINESTRING (8.289285 49.693...
#> 5    E   red LINESTRING (7.900878 49.304...

(sf_enc <- encode_sf(sf))
#> [1] "BFm85vJ4kjzB1B7PzIhaxL7Y" "BFg6quJyi0xB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"
#> [3] "BF09twJmm3zB1B7PzIhaxL7Y" "BFw3pvJigzyB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"
#> [5] "BF-79sJwknwB1B7PzIhaxL7Y"

decode_sf(sf_enc, crs = 4326)
#> Simple feature collection with 5 features and 2 fields
#> Geometry type: LINESTRING
#> Dimension:     XY
#> Bounding box:  xmin: 7.89019 ymin: 49.30145 xmax: 8.47459 ymax: 49.87866
#> Geodetic CRS:  WGS 84
#>   id   dim3                       geometry
#> 1  1 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.37196 49.7760...
#> 2  2 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.13097 49.5350...
#> 3  3 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.47459 49.8786...
#> 4  4 ABSENT LINESTRING (8.28929 49.6933...
#> 5  5 ABSENT LINESTRING (7.90088 49.3049...

Note: The columns "name" and "color" were not encoded and are missing after decoding. The CRS has to be provided in the decoding by the crs argument. Otherwise it is set to sf::NA_crs_.