Limits of predictability in human mobility

Science. 2010 Feb 19;327(5968):1018-21. doi: 10.1126/science.1177170.


A range of applications, from predicting the spread of human and electronic viruses to city planning and resource management in mobile communications, depend on our ability to foresee the whereabouts and mobility of individuals, raising a fundamental question: To what degree is human behavior predictable? Here we explore the limits of predictability in human dynamics by studying the mobility patterns of anonymized mobile phone users. By measuring the entropy of each individual's trajectory, we find a 93% potential predictability in user mobility across the whole user base. Despite the significant differences in the travel patterns, we find a remarkable lack of variability in predictability, which is largely independent of the distance users cover on a regular basis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Forecasting
  • Human Activities*
  • Humans
  • Locomotion
  • Models, Statistical
  • Probability
  • Travel*