Understanding predictability and exploration in human mobility

Andrea Cuttone*, Sune Lehmann Jørgensen, Marta C. González

*Corresponding author for this work

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Predictive models for human mobility have important applications in many fields including traffic control, ubiquitous computing, and contextual advertisement. The predictive performance of models in literature varies quite broadly, from over 90% to under 40%. In this work we study which underlying factors - in terms of modeling approaches and spatio-temporal characteristics of the data sources - have resulted in this remarkably broad span of performance reported in the literature. Specifically we investigate which factors influence the accuracy of next-place prediction, using a high-precision location dataset of more than 400 users observed for periods between 3 months and one year. We show that it is much easier to achieve high accuracy when predicting the time-bin location than when predicting the next place. Moreover, we demonstrate how the temporal and spatial resolution of the data have strong influence on the accuracy of prediction. Finally we reveal that the exploration of new locations is an important factor in human mobility, and we measure that on average 20-25% of transitions are to new places, and approx. 70% of locations are visited only once. We discuss how these mechanisms are important factors limiting our ability to predict human mobility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalE P J Data Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made


  • Human mobility
  • Next-location prediction
  • Predictability


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