The advent of geographic online social networks such as Foursquare, where users voluntarily signal their current location, opens the door to powerful studies on human movement. In particular the fine granularity of the location data, with GPS accuracy down to 10 meters, and the worldwide scale of Foursquare adoption are unprecedented. In this paper we study urban mobility patterns of people in several metropolitan cities around the globe by analyzing a large set of Foursquare users. Surprisingly, while there are variations in human movement in different cities, our analysis shows that those are predominantly due to different distributions of places across different urban environments. Moreover, a universal law for human mobility is identified, which isolates as a key component the rank-distance, factoring in the number of places between origin and destination, rather than pure physical distance, as considered in some previous works. Building on our findings, we also show how a rank-based movement model accurately captures real human movements in different cities. Our results shed new light on the driving factors of urban human mobility, with potential applications for urban planning, location-based advertisement and even social studies.
A tale of many cities: universal patterns in human urban mobility
Anastasios Noulas, Salvatore Scellato, Renaud Lambiotte, Massimiliano Pontil, Cecilia Mascolo