Identifying meaningful locations, such as home or work, from human mobility data has become an increasingly common prerequisite for geographic research. Although location-based services (LBS) and other mobile technology have rapidly grown in recent years, it can be challenging to infer meaningful places from such data, which – compared to conventional datasets – can be devoid of context. Existing approaches are often developed ad-hoc and can lack transparency and reproducibility. To address this, we introduce an R package for inferring home locations from LBS data. The package implements pre-existing algorithms and provides building blocks to make writing algorithmic ‘recipes’ more convenient. We evaluate this approach by analyzing a de-identified LBS dataset from Singapore that aims to balance ethics and privacy with the research goal of identifying meaningful locations. We show that ensemble approaches, combining multiple algorithms, can be especially valuable in this regard as the resulting patterns of inferred home locations closely correlate with the distribution of residential population. We hope this package, and others like it, will contribute to an increase in use and sharing of comparable algorithms, research code and data. This will increase transparency and reproducibility in mobility analyses and further the ongoing discourse around ethical big data research.

Qingqing Chen
Qingqing Chen
PhD Candidate | Data Scientist

Ph.D. candidate focuses on critically understanding urban space by leveraging big data, combined with data science and machine learning techniques.