Mobile devices as data collectors

Mobile devices as data collectors

Mobile devices have become the new data collectors. We all know that our mobile devices leave a trail behind them, and the anonymized aggregation of said trail can be used to deepen our knowledge of how citizens move.

As a result of our collaboration with Orange, we have been asked for an article on the information that mobile telephone data can offer and how to apply this data in the mobility and traffic studies that we carry out at Ingartek.

As we have told Orange, we have seen that more information has been generated in the last five years than in the entire history of mankind. And if a feature has the content created, it is that, in a high percentage, it has been generated from the data of mobile phones. Mobile phones use telephone networks as a means to connect with the world.

As we make use of our terminal in our day to day, it intelligently searches for the closest antennas to connect to and thus be able to go out into the outside world. This automatic connection management means that at all times we must keep track of which terminals are connected to each antenna. Our daily activity will make our device register to the different antennas as we move. It is obvious that this record, which is necessary for communications to function naturally and without incidents, makes it possible to observe the movements of the terminals and thus know where and when people move.

Inflection point

A few years ago, the way to observe mobility was through counts or surveys carried out directly with a limited number of users. These surveys were used for a multitude of studies, and were used as a basis for making investments. Some of them are investments in the millions, since the observation of mobility and the development of transport networks are closely linked. Telephone data opens up the possibility of having a greater number of data, having information for longer periods of time, and of a much larger scope than what can usually be controlled through surveys.

From Ingartek’s point of view, we are at a turning point in the use of this type of technology. Public administrations and private companies still resist the use of these data in contrast to traditional surveys. But the first success stories show that it is a solid technology and that it offers a multitude of advantages at a cost that is competitive with that of a survey campaign.

The new way of doing mobility consulting involves using this type of information, and Spain must be a benchmark for this, just as it is in other areas of mobility solutions.

Being at the forefront of this technology will allow administrations, transport operators and concessionaire companies to benefit from more accurate models, more up-to-date information and higher-quality predictions.


The future passes through immediacy. A survey campaign for a mobility study usually lasts months, given the different phases it requires. The technology for obtaining origin-destination matrices from telephone data allows us to reduce it to a few days. The leap is enormous, but in the near future, this information will be able to be obtained in real time and generate new services that we cannot even imagine now.

Let’s give an example. Tourism is one of the hallmarks of the city of San Sebastián. It is the first gastronomic destination in the world, and the international fame it has acquired means that the influx of visitors is enormous. So much so, that the city of San Sebastián is sensitive to the problems that this entails at the level of mobility, mainly due to the large influx of French tourists.

That is why Ingartek has been commissioned to develop a tool for predicting the influx of tourists that allows, with a minimum time in advance, to take measures at the traffic management level so that the city does not suffer from the success of its international projection…

Big data technology

Big Data technology is here to stay, and if, as we said before, more information has been generated in the last 5 years than in the entire history of humanity, these tools will be required to process all this amount of data. .

In particular, telephone data is a non-intrusive method, because the user is not asked and because the data protection rights of individuals are guaranteed. Therefore, it is ideal for observing how we move, and doing it, in addition, for a longer time, more space and with greater precision.

Other methods of gathering information will continue to be necessary, because there are aspects, mainly motivational, that the user needs to reveal. But, without a doubt, it will not be necessary for them to be so many. The right combination between the most avant-garde technology and traditional methods offers a new workspace with infinite possibilities.

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