Smartphone application MobilityLog (formerly YouSense) can be used to study people’s temporal and spatial behavior.

The MobilityLog smartphone application is an application for phones with an Android operating system and is developed for long-term location and phone usage data collection (see Linnap and Rice 2014, Ahas et al. 2017). The application has been developed in collaboration between the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University and the MobilityLab at the University of Tartu.

MobilityLog collects three types of data: 1) location (GPS coordinates, time), 2) call activity details (start and end times of incoming and outgoing calls, time and number of words of incoming and outgoing SMSs, modified phone number of the caller (last three digits up to and including the penultimate digit are replaced by symbols)), 3) telephone usage data (battery level, power on/off, screen on/off /unlocked, airplane mode on/off, location of the mobile communication mast, network, time zone, downloaded mobile apps, use of alarm clock, turn off of MobilityLog app, starting the phone).  The contents of phone calls, SMS, and mobile applications are not collected.

In addition, two interviews are usually conducted with each user of the MobilityLog application, the first at the beginning of the study, and the second at the end of the data collection period. Interviews are used to collect information on the major places of activity of the study participants (e.g., place of residence, workplace, school, child care facilities, leisure facilities), transport behavior, use of ICT, social networking and socio-demographic background. In addition, people may be asked to fill in questionnaires on the Internet, such as completing a personality test to collect data on personality traits, preferences, and behavior. The data is usually collected over a period of 18-24 months. Using such a long period of time is important to identify seasonal differences.

Smartphone-based data collected by MobilityLog with GPS precision make it possible to accurately estimate people’s position and movements in time and space. The potential for the use for such data is very high. For example, changes in the use of space resulting from a change in the location of the workplace have been studied (Ahas et al., 2017).

Related projects

European Commission funded project MLOOM15135I “Campus Areas as Labs for Participative Urban Design (01.10.2015−31.03.2018),” Age Poom. The aim was to study the use of urban space by students and university staff, the distribution of places of activity, spatial mobility, transport options and the associated environmental load depending on the location of the building in the urban space.

Use of data

In order to collect new data with the MobilityLog smartphone application, it is first necessary to seek the approval of the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Tartu. If you are interested in the collection of new data, contact the MobilityLab of the University of Tartu.

An agreement on the use of confidential data will be concluded between the data user and the UT MobilityLab for the use of the existing data. The data can only be used in a computer system managed by the University of Tartu MobilityLab and through the University of Tartu computer network. In order to gain access to the data, a personal user ID is created for the data user for the period and under the conditions specified in the agreement.

Contact the University of Tartu MobilityLab for more information, data usage, or collaboration.


Siiri SilmAssociate Professor