# New Algorithm Predicts Your Future Movements Within 65-Foot Accuracy

App's average error is just the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound

Cell Phone Mapping Flickr User Daniel Milford Flathagen

Plenty of hay has been made over which apps and cell phones track our movements, but so far it has been difficult to accurately determine where we're going next -- people can be unpredictable, after all, and make dinner plans at random new places on a whim. In that case, what's a prediction algorithm to do? Track all your friends, too, it turns out.

A team of British researchers developed a new algorithm that can predict where you'll be within 24 hours, with 20-meter (about 65-foot) accuracy. This is a major improvement over other attempts to predict future movements, which have been based in cell phones and even in some cars. These systems track your location over time to determine patterns and habits throughout the days and weeks, figuring out likely destinations at certain periods. But what about when the pattern is disrupted?

Mirco Musolesi, Manlio Domenico, and Antonio Lima of the University of Birmingham combined individual tracking data with data from everyone in a subject's phone book. Their algorithm finds correlations between a user's phone and the movements of contacts in that phone's contact list, and can make an educated guess about where a user is going -- even if it's a major deviation from that person's normal routine. Even if you change your typical path by huge margins, the algorithm's error rate is only about 65 feet, less than an average city block.

The algorithm won Nokia's Mobile Data Challenge, but it could have some real-world implications, too. Location-based services could use it to predict where you might eat lunch tomorrow, for instance, and send you coupons for restaurants in the likely vicinity. This could be attractive for businesses that would love to take advantage of your spontaneous activity, along with your humdrum daily routines.

Or in a more ominous scenario, authorities could use location-prediction to predict future crimes and where they might occur, something that's already being done on city-wide scales in places like Santa Cruz, Calif. The main obstacle would be privacy -- but as Slate points out, plenty of location-service users have no problem giving away where they are, at all times. Just look at services like Foursquare, Yelp or even Facebook. People like sharing where they are and where they plan to go -- so it's not a far leap for advertisers, or others, to start following along with those plans.

[via Slate]

I never put out a 65 foot poop in my life! This thing is way off.

I can't imagine predicting the average persons movements on any given day could be to hard. We go to work and go home, repeat. About once a week or so we go to the store or visit a friend. Look, I just predicted the entire week for the majority of America.

If this gets popular a lot of folks -- especially bad guys will presumably find ways to throw it off.

I have my own way -- I seldom use my dumbphone to call anybody. At this point in time, my movements throughout the day are blissfully stealthy.

One more comment -- having businesses bombard me with coupons and ads is just as likely to prevent me from showing up there.

This algorithm\tracking data base of the user, just illustrates most of us lead repetitive boring lives. The 1% rich queen bee can be spontanous. The 99% worker bees are repetitive in task to the administratives bidding.

I am too much of a rebel for this to work. Predict my day? ill show you. however my day to day routine is not that far off from any other 9-5 er, so not impressed during the week.
I know may habits all to well.

However with all that being said maybe a helpful tool reminding you of the changes in your life that need to be made in order to keep ones sanity.

Bang on Robot

@ford2go

if you keep your dumbphone on it will know what towers you are on. You dont need to call someone. Cellphones continually send short messages to the closest tower to update the system on what tower to route calls to. It's the same message that your text message gets sent in.

An amazing breakthrough for SoLoMo apps! If an app can predict where you'll go it can predict what suggestions to present to you!

Coincidentally, I’m working with Orange France who will be hosting an event in SF (September 17) covering the topic of innovation & trends in the Silicon Valley (Solomo plays a huge part). Guest bloggers from Europe and Asia have been invited who will also share their insights with top innovators from around the valley. It’s free to attend and I think fellow bloggers may find it interesting. Email me if you’d like to know more! arthurh(at)ecairn(dot)com

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