Using Cellphone GPS, Researchers Prove We're Homebodies

<p>GPS from cellphones is enabling exciting research into human behavior, but European studies show that our behavior is rarely exciting.</p>
June 7, 2008, 9am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"News flash: We're boring.

New research that makes creative use of sensitive location-tracking data from 100,000 cellphones in Europe suggests that most people can be found in one of just a few locations at any time, and that they do not generally go far from home.

"Individuals display significant regularity, because they return to a few highly frequented locations, such as home or work," the researchers found.

That might seem like science and mountains of data being marshaled to prove the obvious. But the researchers say their work, which also shows that people exhibit similar patterns whether they travel long distances or short ones, could open new frontiers in fields like disease tracking and urban planning.

"Slices of our behavior are preserved in these electronic data sets," said Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, an author of the project and the director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University in Boston. "This is creating huge opportunities for science."

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Published on Thursday, June 5, 2008 in International Herald Tribune
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