Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cell phones show human movement predictable 93% of the time

Cell phones show human movement predictable 93% of the time
By Casey Johnston | Last updated February 23, 2010 5:02 PM

"We'd like to think of ourselves as dynamic, unpredictable individuals, but according to new research, that's not the case at all. In a study published in last week's Science, researchers looked at customer location data culled from cellular service providers. By looking at how customers moved around, the authors of the study found that it may be possible to predict human movement patterns and location up to 93 percent of the time. These findings may be useful in multiple fields, including city planning, mobile communication resource management, and anticipating the spread of viruses."

This is interesting on so many levels. First, there's the whole Big Brother aspect. If you carry a cell phone with GPS, someone somewhere will know where you are. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. I use AT&T FamilyMap to keep an eye on my son when he's oot and aboot (that's Canadian for out and about). It's nice to have that kind of reassurance. But the idea of being tracked 24/7 is a little hinky. Would you want someone to know where you were all the time?

On the other side of the coin, the scientific data related to predicting human movements sounds like the first steps to what Iaasc Asimov called Psychohistory. Being able to predict how people react can be beneficial for things like planning traffic routs for a community or escape routs for buildings and such.

The personal privacy solution is to not carry around a cell phone. But can anyone in today's industrialized society honestly do without one?
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