Approximating $(k,\ell)$-center clustering for curves

Kevin Buchin, Anne Driemel, Joachim Gudmundsson, Michael Horton, Irina Kostitsyna, Maarten Löffler, Martijn Struijs

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The Euclidean $k$-center problem is a classical problem that has been extensively studied in computer science. Given a set $\mathcal{G}$ of $n$ points in Euclidean space, the problem is to determine a set $\mathcal{C}$ of $k$ centers (not necessarily part of $\mathcal{G}$) such that the maximum distance between a point in $\mathcal{G}$ and its nearest neighbor in $\mathcal{C}$ is minimized. In this paper we study the corresponding $(k,\ell)$-center problem for polygonal curves under the Fr\'echet distance, that is, given a set $\mathcal{G}$ of $n$ polygonal curves in $\mathbb{R}^d$, each of complexity $m$, determine a set $\mathcal{C}$ of $k$ polygonal curves in $\mathbb{R}^d$, each of complexity $\ell$, such that the maximum Fr\'echet distance of a curve in $\mathcal{G}$ to its closest curve in $\mathcal{C}$ is minimized. In this paper, we substantially extend and improve the known approximation bounds for curves in dimension $2$ and higher. We show that, if $\ell$ is part of the input, then there is no polynomial-time approximation scheme unless $\mathsf{P}=\mathsf{NP}$. Our constructions yield different bounds for one and two-dimensional curves and the discrete and continuous Fr\'echet distance. In the case of the discrete Fr\'echet distance on two-dimensional curves, we show hardness of approximation within a factor close to $2.598$. This result also holds when $k=1$, and the $\mathsf{NP}$-hardness extends to the case that $\ell=\infty$, i.e., for the problem of computing the minimum-enclosing ball under the Fr\'echet distance. Finally, we observe that a careful adaptation of Gonzalez' algorithm in combination with a curve simplification yields a $3$-approximation in any dimension, provided that an optimal simplification can be computed exactly. We conclude that our approximation bounds are close to being tight.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1805.01547v2
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

24 pages; results on minimum-enclosing ball added, additional author added, general revision


  • cs.CG
  • cs.IR
  • F.2.2


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