Root Mean Square Error – Definition

Root-mean-square error (RMSE) is used to estimate positional accuracy. RMSE is the square root of the average of the set of squared differences between dataset coordinate values and coordinate values from an independent source of higher accuracy for identical points. Accuracy is reported in ground distances at the 95% confidence level. Accuracy reported at the 95% confidence level means that 95% of the positions in the dataset will have an error with respect to true ground position that is equal to or smaller than the reported accuracy value. The reported accuracy value reflects all uncertainties, including those introduced by geodetic control coordinates, compilation, and final computation of ground coordinate values in the product.

Precision refers to the level of measurement and exactness of description in a dataset. Precise locational data may measure position to a fraction of a unit. Precise attribute information may specify the characteristics of features in great detail. It is important to realize, however, that precise data—no matter how carefully measured—may be inaccurate.

Surveyors may make mistakes or data may be entered into the database incorrectly. The level of precision required for particular applications varies greatly. Engineering projects such as road and utility construction require very precise information measured to the millimeter or tenth of an inch. Highly precise data can be very difficult and costly to collect manually. High precision does not indicate high accuracy nor does high accuracy imply high precision.

Source: ASPRS Standards. More information regarding horizontal accuracy can be found here.