Visualization and analysis of mobile phone location data

Kwan, M 2012, Visualization and analysis of mobile phone location data, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Visualization and analysis of mobile phone location data
Author(s) Kwan, M
Year 2012
Abstract This thesis investigates the use of passively-collected data from mobile phone networks to map population movements. In Australia, as in most other developed countries, nearly all teenagers and working-age adults carry a mobile phone. When these phones communicate with the network they reveal their location to be within the coverage area of the base station antenna that received their transmission. This location data, if it were collected, could be used to derive movement information for most of the population. Such information does not currently exist.

The thesis begins by investigating what information is available within a mobile phone network during normal operations. It looks at how difficult it is to extract this information, how frequently it is generated, and the spatial accuracy when it is used to locate a mobile handset. A new technique is described for estimating the location of a handset within the coverage area of a directional antenna.

The theoretical investigation is supplemented by the collection of field data with a GPSequipped smart phone running custom software; by simulating the movement of Australia's mobile phones using census data and a database of base station antenna locations; and by analyzing the mobile phone billing records of an individual who elected to make his data public.

Having researched the accuracy and availability of mobile phone location data, the thesis then looks at the feasibility of using it for various applications. These applications include sending alerts to people in the path of a tsunami; predicting the utilization of a new public transport route; tracking the movements of fugitives and missing persons; measuring internal migration within Australia; identifying abnormal population concentrations in real-time; and measuring the population of a region throughout the day/year. Finally, the thesis looks at techniques for visualizing the data. Existing techniques are explored, and a new one is proposed that makes use of clustered velocity vectors. This new approach can display the location, quantity, speed, and direction of large numbers of people at a point in time, and do so efficiently in terms of computational speed. The thesis concludes by summarizing the potential applications of mobile phone location data and suggesting areas of further research.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
Keyword(s) Mobile phone networks
population mapping
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Created: Tue, 11 Dec 2012, 15:12:39 EST by Brett Fenton
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