Towards a better understanding of cities using mobility data

Maxime Lenormand1 and José J. Ramasco2

1Irstea, Montpellier, France.
2Instituto de Física Interdisciplinar y Sistemas Complejos IFISC (CSIC-UIB), Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

(Dec 2016)

The increasing concentration of people in cities generates many problems of control in the management of resources and urban space. Urban sprawl, for example, generates serious environmental, social and economic challenges that pertain to congestion, increasing transport costs, and segregated urban environments. Making cities "smarter" has the potential to provide a solution for handling more efficiently new sources of digital information, to gain a better understanding of urban dynamics and human mobility and last but not least, to search for more sustainable living conditions. In this context, the increasing availability of geolocated data generated by the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) provides new tools to analyse activity and mobility patterns in urban environments. In this paper, we present an overview of recent findings in empirical applications of such "big data" to the systematic study of cities and their problems of movement. The paper concludes with a discussion on the potential of this new source of data and on how the coupling of big data analysis and computer modelling can open new horizons for the analysis of urban systems.