Mobile Phones as Ubiquitous Social and Environmental Geo-Sensors

Mobile Phones as Ubiquitous Social and Environmental Geo-Sensors

Günther Sagl (Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, Austria & University of Salzburg, Austria) and Bernd Resch (University of Salzburg, Austria & Heidelberg University, Germany)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch098
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Mobile and sensor-rich devices such as today's smartphones are increasingly leveraged as ubiquitous mobile geo-sensors that are able to sense their immediate surroundings on site in high spatial and temporal detail. Using those devices, the activity or mobility behavior of mobile phone users is being “sensed” since they leave behind digital traces of their whereabouts when using the mobile network—voluntarily or not. Additionally, people themselves can act as human sensors by providing subjective, geo-referenced “observations” in the form of individual perceptions of, e.g., the weather, thereby complementing calibrated measurements from technical geo-sensor networks. Together with other user-generated and increasingly geo-referenced data and information from a variety of Web 2.0 and social media platforms, this results in vast volumes of geo-data that digitally reflect the dynamics of human behavior (e.g., mobility in urban spaces) and environmental phenomena (e.g., the weather). In this article, the authors provide an overview of recent literature, influencing scholars, and future research directions in the context of using mobile phones for social and environmental geo-sensing in order to provide additional insights into the space-time behavior of the underlying geographic phenomena.
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Overview Of The Intellectual History

In this article, we put emphasis on the geo-spatial and temporal components of mobile phone data acquisition and data analysis. We focus on the following three concrete research areas:

  • Human-centered data acquisition using mobile phones;

  • Space-time patterns of human behavior derived from mobile phone data;

  • Exploring human behavior in the environmental context.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ubiquitous sensing: Ubiquitous sensing, or ubiquitous ‘geo-’sensing to emphasize the spatial dimension, refers to the wide variety of omnipresent technical and human sensors and geo-sensor networks and their ability to probe geographic phenomena even in real time ( Sagl et al. 2012a , Sagl & Blaschke 2014 AU75: The citation "Sagl & Blaschke 2014" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Spatio-Temporal Analysis: Generally speaking, the broad spectrum of Spatio-temporal Analysis investigates geographic space and time in order to extract meaningful spatial and temporal information from diverse geo-data.

Volunteered Geographic Information: Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) refers to “the widespread engagement of large numbers of private citizens, often with little in the way of formal qualifications, in the creation of geographic information, a function that for centuries has been reserved to official agencies. They are largely untrained and their actions are almost always voluntary, and the results may or may not be accurate. But collectively, they represent a dramatic innovation that will certainly have profound impacts on geographic information systems (GIS) and more generally on the discipline of geography and its relationship to the general public” ( Goodchild 2007a , p. 212).

People As Sensors: “People as Sensors defines a measurement model, in which measurements are not only taken by calibrated hardware sensors, but in which also humans can contribute their subjective ‘measurements’ such as their individual sensations, current perceptions or personal observations” (Resch 2012, p. 392 AU74: The in-text citation "Resch 2012, p. 392" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Context-Awareness: Context-Awareness herein refers to the analysis of one geographic phenomenon in the context of another from a geo-sensing perspective. Examples include the analysis of collective human mobility in the context of certain weather conditions. Thus, Context-Awareness is strongly linked to Environment-Human Interaction ( Sagl et al. 2012a , Sagl & Blaschke 2014 AU73: The citation "Sagl & Blaschke 2014" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Environment-Human Interaction: Environment-Human Interaction herein refers to potential interactions between the natural environment and the human, for instance, the influence of certain weather conditions on people’s mobility, or, vice versa, the influence of car traffic on air quality ( Sagl et al. 2012a ).

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