Aside from providing great value to the end-user, location data is also proving hugely valuable to researchers. A new study published in Science magazine analyzed mobile location data from frequent cell phone users and found that human movement is predictable at least 93% of the time.
The authors analyzed various aspects of the information related to the calls, as well as information that could be aggregated over multiple calls: number of distinct locations, historical probability that the location had been visited in the past, time spent at each tower, the order in which customers usually visited towers, and so on.
Customers that stuck to the same six-mile radius had predictability rates of 97 to 93 percent, and this fell off as the typical area of travel grew. But the predictability eventually stabilized, and remained at 93 percent even as the radius of travel rose to thousands of miles. Regardless of how widely they traveled, the researchers could adequately predict their locations, down to the specific tower, 93 percent of the time.
As the Ars article points out, these findings could be used for many different practical purposes: planning traffic flow in cities, tracking the spread of contagious disease, and anticipating cellular network usage patterns. Very interesting, indeed.
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