What is mobility data, and why is it important?

Mobility and footfall datasets have grown exponentially in recent years. With major firms like Google and Apple, the prevalence of mobility data has skyrocketed.

The quality and diversity of mobility data accessible to people and organizations have increased as technology continues to evolve at an extraordinary pace. But what exactly is mobility data? Where does it come from, and how can you use it to your advantage?

What is mobility data?

Mobility data records how people and technologies exist and interact with their surroundings. Footfall, catchment regions, dwell-time analysis, and visits to various places are all examples of mobility data.

Mobility data is typically visualized in charts or heat maps, such as below, to better understand trends in the information. 

mobility data
Source: https://ai.googleblog.com/2019/11/new-insights-into-human-mobility-with.html

Understanding human mobility is critical for predicting diseases, building urban and transportation infrastructure, understanding people's reactions to conflict and natural catastrophes, and many other vital disciplines. Previously, the cutting-edge mobility data depended on cell carrier records or location "check-ins" and was only available in restricted regions — where the telecom provider operated. As a result, cross-border movement and long-distance travel were frequently missed because consumers seldom use their SIM cards outside the nation covered by their subscription plan, and databases are commonly restricted to specific regions.

However, population flows worldwide are now collected from location sensors, making mobility data a global enterprise. New modes of transportation, such as bike-sharing and ride sharing, as well as new modes of access, such as travel planners and smart tickets, are transforming the industry and producing new data sources.

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Where does mobility data come from?

People move, and how they move - on foot, bike, vehicle, or train - leaves a digital trace.

Traffic cameras and GPS data can be used to track vehicles. Companies behind novel modes of transportation, such as dockless bikes and scooters, and ride-hailing services, will have access to data about the kind and amount of customers for their services and the places where the bikes, cars, and scooters are sought.

People will create mobility data by tagging locations on social media, using applications, interacting with wifi beacons, or, in certain situations, logging their moves using Bluetooth, GPS, or cell phone records. When aggregated to show population trends and movements, these data points become incredibly valuable to organizations of all types.

gps data
Source: https://www.wired.com/story/twitter-location-data-gps-privacy/

The benefits of mobility data

There are a considerable amount of business benefits to collecting human mobility data. As long as the methods are ethical by utilizing publicly available sources and ensuring consumer opt-in, they can be critical for decision making.  

  1. Footfall data
    Mobility data helps to understand footfall traffic in a particular area. The information is valuable for commercial planning, real estate selection, investments, and marketing opportunities. 
  2. Demographic trends
    Mobility data helps to understand trends and patterns of footfall and vehicle traffic. You can split these based on geographical areas, age, gender, and other factors, helping to understand the audience before making decisions. 
  3. Uncover previously hidden opportunities
    Human mobility data helps to augment decision-making by finding opportunities you may have never known existed. For example, you can quantify the local market size, catchment area, and footfall traffic. These can point to opportunities based on actual data rather than "gut feel."
  4. Future forecasting
    Mobility data can show the historical movements in particular areas, putting you in a position to predict the future regarding revenue. Such data can be pivotal in retail estate planning and investment opportunities.
  5. Benchmarking
    Mobility and footfall data can compare places of interest with peers and competitors to gain a more accurate view of performance. 
  6. Adding context to data
    Integrating mobility data with other datasets, such as transactional information, can show the precise impact of footfall traffic on your business. 
  7. Deliver insights quickly
    Traditionally, businesses would use a manually counting method to gather mobility and footfall data. However, modern techniques such as cameras, GPS, tagging, and sensors allow for real-time insights. You can make quick decisions rather than waiting for the data to be collected. 

Use cases for human mobility data

There are plenty of use cases for mobility data. We have highlighted some of the top ones below. 


While firms profited from comparable data before Covid-19, it wasn't until the pandemic that it was the centre of worldwide conversation, primarily due to big tech's engagement. To assist governments worldwide, Google and Apple made high-quality mobility data reports available for free to give insights into people's movements and help limit the spread of coronavirus throughout their populations.

Understanding population movements allowed governments to understand better how Covid-19 was affecting communities and put measures in place to keep their communities safe and prevent the disease from spreading.

Retail Planning

Mobility data reveals how your targeted populations move, where they come from, how far they travel, and how long they may remain in any area. These metrics can be valuable for understanding and forecasting purchasing habits and projected spending.

You can utilize mobility data to discover a wealth of information about your region, location, town, city, or even street, which can significantly aid your positioning and planning efforts. Mobility data could be used to discover location hotspots - areas where people prefer to assemble - from which prospective behavior or business possibilities might be identified.

Site Planning

Investors can use mobility data to understand the best location for their next site. They want to understand the local community and broader population when formalizing an investment opportunity. Mobility data can point towards peak retail times, vital catchment areas for a niche, and competitor behavior. Combining everything helps to select a new location for a business confidently. 

Get started with mobility data

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