Monday, June 24, 2024

Universal law of visitation apparent in mobile phone data

Scientists from the Santa Fe Institute, MIT, and ETH Zürich have developed a scaling law that governs the number of visitors to any urban location based on how far they are traveling and how often they are visiting. The researchers’ findings are a result of analysis of data from millions of anonymized cellphone users in urban regions including Boston, Lisbon, Singapore, and Dakar. The visitation law increases accuracy in predicting flows between locations, which could have a range of applications from city planning to preventing spread in a pandemic. “Imagine you are standing on a busy plaza, say in Boston, and you see people coming and going. This may look pretty random and chaotic, but the law shows that these movements are surprisingly structured and predictable. It basically tells you how many of these people are coming from 1, 2 or 10 kilometers away and how many are visiting once, twice or 10 times a month,” says lead author Markus Schläpfer of ETH Zurich’s Future Cities Laboratory. “And the best part is that this same regularity holds not only in Boston, but across cities worldwide.”

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