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Travelers or locals? Identifying meaningful sub-populations from human movement data in the absence of ground truth


Scherrer, Luca; Tomko, Martin; Ranacher, Peter; Weibel, Robert (2018). Travelers or locals? Identifying meaningful sub-populations from human movement data in the absence of ground truth. EPJ Data Science:7:19.

Abstract

As users of mobile devices make phone calls, browse the web, or use an app, large volumes of data are routinely generated that are a potentially useful source for investigating human behavior in space. However, as such data are usually collected only as a by-product, they often lack stringent experimental design and ground truth, which makes interpretation and derivation of valid behavioral conclusions challenging. Here, we propose an unsupervised, data-driven approach to identify different user types based on high-resolution human movement data collected from a smartphone navigation app, in the absence of ground truth. We capture spatio-temporal footprints of users, characterized by meaningful summary statistics, which are then used in an unsupervised step to identify user types. Based on an extensive dataset of users of the mobile navigation app Sygic in Australia, we show how the proposed methodology allows to identify two distinct groups of users: ‘travelers’, visiting different areas with distinct, salient characteristics, and ‘locals’, covering shorter distances and revisiting many of their locations. We verify our approach by relating user types to space use: we find that travelers and locals prefer to visit distinct, different locations in the Australian cities Sydney and Melbourne, as suggested independently by other studies. Although we use high-resolution GPS data, the proposed methodology is potentially transferable to low-resolution movement data (e.g. Call Detail Records), since we rely only on summary statistics.

Abstract

As users of mobile devices make phone calls, browse the web, or use an app, large volumes of data are routinely generated that are a potentially useful source for investigating human behavior in space. However, as such data are usually collected only as a by-product, they often lack stringent experimental design and ground truth, which makes interpretation and derivation of valid behavioral conclusions challenging. Here, we propose an unsupervised, data-driven approach to identify different user types based on high-resolution human movement data collected from a smartphone navigation app, in the absence of ground truth. We capture spatio-temporal footprints of users, characterized by meaningful summary statistics, which are then used in an unsupervised step to identify user types. Based on an extensive dataset of users of the mobile navigation app Sygic in Australia, we show how the proposed methodology allows to identify two distinct groups of users: ‘travelers’, visiting different areas with distinct, salient characteristics, and ‘locals’, covering shorter distances and revisiting many of their locations. We verify our approach by relating user types to space use: we find that travelers and locals prefer to visit distinct, different locations in the Australian cities Sydney and Melbourne, as suggested independently by other studies. Although we use high-resolution GPS data, the proposed methodology is potentially transferable to low-resolution movement data (e.g. Call Detail Records), since we rely only on summary statistics.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:10 Jul 2018 12:19
Last Modified:24 Sep 2019 23:32
Publisher:SpringerOpen
ISSN:2193-1127
OA Status:Gold
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-018-0147-7

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