Using mobile phone data to analyze mobility and transport usage


The analysis of mobility using data produced by mobile phones and smartphone applications is a scientific and technical field that is rapidly growing. These data have the characteristic of being massive, longitudinal, detailed, relatively inexpensive to produce, and potentially available in real time. The diversity of potential applications in the field of mobility attracts industrials and many efforts are underway to provide easy-to-use analytical tools based on these data sources.


Through a review of more than 80 research articles, this book chapter – to the writing of which participated Julie Chrétien, project manager at 6t, in her previous position – compares data from the mobile phones to “classic” mobility-analysis tools. Beyond the many applications of such data, the authors aim to highlight the technical challenges and limitations of this new source of information.


For researchers and operators, these data have many useful applications in the field of mobility behavior analysis, territorial analysis, quality of service estimation and traffic conditions identification.

However, mobile and smart phone traces alone are rarely sufficient to generate information accurate enough to be used as such by mobility managers. The transcription of series of points into journeys, stops, modal shares, and other indicators commonly used for mobility analysis, necessitates the addition of at least some external data. Such data can include indications provided by the users (personal information, description of the current activity, mode used…), additional data generated by certain phones (acceleration, altitude …), or geographical descriptions of the territory (transport networks, location of businesses …).

Furthermore, the availability of such data depends on ownership rate of mobile phones, on the social acceptability of geolocation, on the kind of applications that individuals use on a daily basis, and on national and international regulations. As such, their availability is uncertain in the future and varies according to the country or region in which they are produced and exploited.


The book is available here.

  • To quote this chapter:

CHRETIEN J, LE NECHET F, LEURENT F, YIN B, 2018, « Using Cell Phone Data to Understand Travel Behavior and Transportation Systems », in Urban mobility and the smartphone: Transportation, travel behavior and public policy, AGUILERA A, BOUTUEIL V (dir) Elsevier, 222 pages, eBook ISBN: 9780128126486 – Paperback ISBN: 9780128126479

  • To quote the book:

AGUILERA A, BOUTUEIL V, 2018, «Urban mobility and the smartphone: Transportation, travel behavior and public policy», Elsevier, 222 pages, eBook ISBN: 9780128126486 – Paperback ISBN: 9780128126479.

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