Cellphone Study Reveals Surprising Patterns in People’s Movement

Cellphone Study Reveals Surprising Patterns in People’s Movement
Innovation
Christine Huang
  • 5 june 2008

A new study conducted by researchers at Northeastern University has revealed some interesting properties of human movement through tracking their mobile phone use. The study used data collected from 100,000 randomly selected individuals in an undisclosed European country; every time an anonymously tracked user received or made a call or SMS, the mobile base station used was recorded to determine his/her approximate (within 3 km sq.) location. The results, gathered after six months of data collection, indicated that the majority of people travel a relatively short distance, somewhere between 5km-10km a day on a regular basis, and tend to re-visit the same spots over and over again. The research team also made the somewhat surprising discovery that people’s movement followed a power law distribution, a mathematical relationship that is seen in other natural and social phenomena, like earthquake sizes and income distribution.BBC points out the potential applications of the report’s findings, and that several companies and researchers have begun using mobile tracking as a way to gather information on other types of movement, like traffic flow.

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