Location data from mobile phones has revealed that the vast majority of human movement is predictable.
A study published by peer-reviewed journal Science examined anonymised data culled from mobile phone service providers and found that it was possible to accurately predict movement and location up to 97pc of the time for the majority of people, and 93pc of the time for the entire set of data.
The study also found that the majority of people did not stray outside a 6 mile radius for the bulk of the period investigated, and that at any one time people were 70pc likely to be at their most-visited location.
The study used date from mobile phones which were logged by networks at least once every two hours, and gave location information an accuracy of two square miles. Even for callers who travelled regularly over areas of hundreds of miles, data showed that their movements were predictable, indicating the travel patterns tend to be quite formulaic. Each user was found to visit an average of 63 places regularly.
Although the data might appear to confirm what people intuitively believe – that most days, most people go to work, go out and come home again, for instance – the researchers, from Boston, USA and China, believe that it could be useful for mobile networks’ data load management, city planning and anticipating the spread of viruses.