Scientists will gather this week in Tartu to discuss the implementation of spatial big data in social studies

The 6th Mobile Tartu conference will be held in Tartu on June 27th29th, bringing together more than 70 researchers from 24 countries. The role of spatial big data has become fundamentally important in the contemporary society. New data sources provide additional information on people’s behavior and the functioning of cities, and help to apply smart solutions for managing people’s mobility and governing social processes. More and more state institutions, municipalities and enterprises integrate smart solutions based on geolocated data into physical infrastructure and develop various services using mobility data.

Mobile Tartu 2018 conference organized by the Department of Geography at the University of Tartu discusses theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects related to the use of mobile phone and social media data. The conference focuses on the applications of the data in human mobility research, statistics, and smart city and transportation development. During the conference, outdoor experiments for implementing smartphone based GPS and social media data will be held.

Siiri Silm, research fellow at the University of Tartu, Department of Geography, and the main organizer of the conference, highlights the importance of mobile phone-based data collection: “People are becoming more mobile, but there is not enough statistics about the increasing mobility. New data collection  methods such as mobile positioning, smartphone-based GPS tracking and geo-tagged social media data gain importance in this context, as they allow us to explore people’s spatio-temporal mobility such as commuting in urban areas or cross-border migration more precisely.”

This interdisciplinary debate involves geographers, social scientists and computer scientists. Keynote speakers are Professor Márton Karsai from ENS de Lyon University, Matthew Zook from the University of Kentucky and Fabio Ricciato from Eurostat.

Mobile Tartu conference is a good place to build academic networks with top-level international mobility researchers around the world. This opportunity was created by Rein Ahas, Professor of Human Geography, who unexpectedly passed away in the beginning of this year. Professor Ahas laid the foundation for big data based mobility research at the University of Tartu, and organized a biennial conference that constitutes a special community of mobility researchers. Memorizing Rein Ahas with his own words: “Extremely great things start with social ties and building social relationships is the most profitable investment in the contemporary open world.” (Maaleht, 08.07.2017,

Mobile Tartu conference is supported by the Doctoral School of Earth Sciences and Ecology (financed by EU European Regional Development Fund, University of Tartu ASTRA project PER ASPERA), Positium LBS, Smart City Lab, and Estonian Biocentre. Session “Mobile phones, travel and transportation” is organized by NECTAR cluster and session “Sensor Data for Smart City” is organized by project SmartEnCity that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 691883. Positium LBS and the Digital Geography Lab of the University of Helsinki help to conduct the outdoor experiments.

Additional information: Siiri Silm, research fellow at the Department of Geography, tel: 5211646, email:


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