The Passive mobile positioning data can be used for a variety of scientific and applied research that requires information on people’s location and movement, including from short-term intraday movements to long-term changes. Examples of topics to analyze include:

  • location of places of residence and places of work;
  • movements between places of activity;
  • population distribution and temporal (including seasonal) dynamics of operating spaces;
  • permanent changes of residence;
  • urban exposure times and spatio-temporal urban structures;
  • volumes of domestic and foreign tourists and visitor profiles;
  • seasonal dynamics of tourism flows;
  • visitor destinations and traffic flows at the destination;
  • repeat visits and visitor destination loyalty;
  • the social importance and economic impact of the events;
  • official tourism statistics;
  • gender, age, and ethnic differences in people’s use of space.

The Passive Mobile Positioning Database is based on automatically stored location data from mobile operators. The key features of passive mobile positioning data are the time and location of the operation. The data can be divided into three: 1) the locations of customers of Estonian mobile operators in Estonia; 2) the locations of customers of foreign mobile operators in Estonia through roaming services; 3) the locations of customers of Estonian mobile operators abroad through roaming services.

Related projects

IUT2-17 project “Spatial Population Mobility and Geographical Changes in Urban Regions (01.01.2013-31.12.2018)” by Tiit Tammaru, funded by the Estonian Research Council. The aim was to find out the relationship between spatial mobility of the population (external migration, internal migration, daily mobility) and socio-spatial segregation as influencing the development of urban regions.

Project VLTOM18382 (EE/SO2/055/2018) “Potentials of Big Data for Integrated Territorial Policy Development in the European Growth Corridors (Big Data & EGC) (Interreg ESPON 2020) (1.05.2018-30.06.2019)” by Anto Aasa, funded by European Commission.  The aim was to develop a nationwide database of people’s mobility, which gathers data on the daily activities of Estonians.

2019–2022 Building European Communities’ Resilience and Social Capital. BuildERS

2019-2023 Understanding the Vicious Circles of Segregation. A Geographic Perspective

Completed studies

The completed studies are available at:

Several applied research projects have been conducted for the public sector based on passive mobile positioning data. The substantive studies have been kept Estonia-centered, as the data is about Estonia, and the projects funded by the European Union have primarily developed methodology based on the example of Estonia.

Major research commissioned by the public sector was “Commuting areas in Estonia” (Ahas et al.) commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior in 2010 and “Repeat study of regional commuting” (Ahas & Silm), commissioned by the Minister of Regional Affairs in 2013. In addition, similar studies have been commissioned by local governments (Saku, Harku, Kaarma, Rapla, Pärnu, Rakvere, etc.).

Use of data

An agreement on the use of confidential data will be concluded between the data user and the UT MobilityLab. 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 for collaboration.


Siiri SilmAssociate Professor