Mobility Lab

Mobility Lab of the University of Tartu is an interdisciplinary research group that studies human mobility and its associations with society and the environment using mobile (big) data.

By understanding human mobility at a range of spatial and temporal scales, we aim to develop better knowledge of many socio-spatial phenomena occurring within and across our cities, regions, and countries. With open data, methods, tools, and research results, we aim to better understand our society while supporting evidence-based decision-making and smart governance towards a sustainable future.

Topics. Our research interests include diverse topics related to human mobility such as human presence and spatial mobility, social networks and socio-spatial inequalities in activity space, environmental exposure and urban sustainability, tourism and transnational lifestyles, as well as dynamic populations and crisis management. Since the 2000s, we have been the pioneers of mobile phone data based research and methodological development for governance and official statistics.

Data. We use both passive (i.e., CDR/DDR) and active mobile phone data from network operators. We have developed a smartphone application called MobilityLog for collecting GPS, call activities, and phone use data enriched with survey and sensor data. Our rich data sets are stored in the Infotechnological Mobility Observatory, which is an innovative and comprehensive data bank that supports diverse mobility research in collaboration with our partners. 

Action. We carry out our mission through cutting-edge research and applied science projects, teaching on all study levels, and via individual supervision of students and early career researchers. We leverage our knowledge and expertise to society through public presentations and open courses, open data and methods, and the popularisation of science. Since 2008, we have been organising the Mobile Tartu biennial conference, which brings together leading scholars, researchers, and professionals to discuss the latest research and applications in human mobility and mobile big data.

History. The Mobility Lab was founded in 2004 by the late Professor Rein Ahas. He envisioned how mobile phone data—reflecting social flows in time and place—could be used for organising and planning public life (see more from the Social Positioning Method from Ahas, Mark 2005). Since inception, the Mobility Lab has been an inspiring academic environment for a whole generation of young people who use mobile big data for socially influential research. The academic legacy of Professor Ahas continues to grow and develop dynamically through research, education, outreach, and application. The biennial Mobile Tartu conference features a Rein Ahas Lecture Series, which is dedicated to the memory of Rein, a visionary and extraordinary scholar. 

RESEARCH THEMES

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