Enhancing spatial accuracy of mobile phone data using multi-temporal dasymetric interpolation

Olle Järv, Henrikki Tenkanen, Tuuli Toivonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Novel digital data sources allow us to attain enhanced knowledge about locations and mobilities of people in space and time. Already a fast-growing body of literature demonstrates the applicability and feasibility of mobile phone-based data in social sciences for considering mobile devices as proxies for people. However, the implementation of such data imposes many theoretical and methodological challenges. One major issue is the uneven spatial resolution of mobile phone data due to the spatial configuration of mobile network base stations and its spatial interpolation. To date, different interpolation techniques are applied to transform mobile phone data into other spatial divisions. However, these do not consider the temporality and societal context that shapes the human presence and mobility in space and time. The paper aims, first, to contribute to mobile phone-based research by addressing the need to give more attention to the spatial interpolation of given data, and further by proposing a dasymetric interpolation approach to enhance the spatial accuracy of mobile phone data. Second, it contributes to population modelling research by combining spatial, temporal and volumetric dasymetric mapping and integrating it with mobile phone data. In doing so, the paper presents a generic conceptual framework of a multi-temporal function-based dasymetric (MFD) interpolation method for mobile phone data. Empirical results demonstrate how the proposed interpolation method can improve the spatial accuracy of both night-time and daytime population distributions derived from different mobile phone data sets by taking advantage of ancillary data sources. The proposed interpolation method can be applied for both location- and person-based research, and is a fruitful starting point for improving the spatial interpolation methods for mobile phone data. We share the implementation of our method in GitHub as open access Python code.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1630-1651
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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