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Deriving origin–destination data from a mobile phone network

Deriving origin–destination data from a mobile phone network

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Acquiring high-quality origin–destination (OD) information for traffic in a geographic area is both time consuming and expensive while using conventional methods such as household surveys or roadside monitoring. These methods generally present only a snapshot of traffic situation at a certain point in time, and they are updated in time intervals of up to several years. A technique was developed that makes use of the global system for mobile communications (GSM) mobile phone network. Instead of monitoring the flow of vehicles in a transportation network, the flow of mobile phones in a cell-phone network is measured and correlated to traffic flow. This methodology is based on the fact that a mobile phone moving on a specific route always tends to change the base station nearly at the same position. For a first pilot study, a GSM network simulator has been designed, where network data can be simulated, which is then extracted from the phone network, correlated, processed mathematically and converted into an OD matrix. Primary results show that the method has great potential, and the results inferred are much more cost-effective than those generated with traditional techniques. This is due to the fact that no change has to be made in the GSM network, because the information that is needed can readily be extracted from the base station database, that is the entire infrastructure needed is already in place.

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