Solving Cities

Visualizing the mobile phone use of a city

Visualizing the mobile phone use of a city

Posting in Cities

One city in Switzerland created a stunning visualization of mobile phone use in the city. And it could help the city run more efficiently.

People move freely throughout metropolitan regions, paying little attention to arbitrary boundaries of cities and the region. To see how just how people interact throughout a metro region, Geneva, Switzerland created a visualization of human interactions in the area based on the use of mobile phones.

The result, called Ville Vivante, or City Living, is stunning.

Ville Vivante Trailer from Interactive Things on Vimeo.

The visualization was created using digital traces left behind when using the city's mobile infrastructure. The city tracked mobile connections, almost in real time, over a single day. During that day in Geneva, subscribers to Swisscom, a major mobile provider in Switzerland, made 15 million connections from 2 million phone calls.

But the point wasn't just to create a beautiful video. Tracking the digital traces left behind by mobile phone use could help the city answer important economic and political questions. Here are three ways the city says they invision using this data to make the city operate more efficiently.

  1. For citizens this data allows to feel the pulse of the population and see how they use the urban space. It offers a great innovation opportunity for new citizen services like traffic jam detectors or nightlife buzz indicators.
  2. For the public administration these digital traces can be very useful to evaluate urban planning strategies.
  3. For businesses the digital traces can reveal insights on how popular certain districts are, during what time periods. This information can be leveraged to determine leases or chose the best spot for a shop or restaurant.

[Via Fast Co. Design]

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure