Finnish researchers have devised an algorithm that accurately determines mobile phone users’ modes of transportation by analyzing data from their phones’ accelerometers. Useful? Absolutely! Annoying? Possibly …


Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland have developed algorithms they say are the best yet for determining how mobile phone users are getting around town —  walking, driving, taking the subway or otherwise — by analyzing the frequency and velocity of their starts and stops.

Paired with location data, this could be great news for civic planners trying to optimize roads or public transportation. As the researchers suggest, it could also be helpful in reconstructing accidents or identifying road hazards, or powering an app that gives feedback about a user’s driving style in the name of improving safety or fuel efficiency.

It’s arguable the latter capability is better suited for the car’s internal sensor network and display system, though. For starters, cars can gather much more fine-grained data about a vehicle’s operation than just braking and acceleration patterns. And should such a system turn into a glorified, digital backseat driver, a car-based system is much less likely to be thrown out the window.


Source: University of Helsinki

  1. the phone must’ve been taped to the vehicle for such plots.

  2. Why not mention the most likely use for this: targeting advertisements?

    1. You wish. Coming soon to a cash strapped city near you, speeding tickets with your own phone as the witness. Think it can’t happen? Just wait and see. It’ll be like automatic 911 location info that you used to be able to turn off but can’t now. It’s for our own good. They already have unlimited access to our call and text records just by saying the magic word terrorist somewhere in their request, and warrants go out the window.

  3. Why not mention this idea’s most likely use: targeting advertisements. Don’t want to bother advertising your luxury goods to poor folks? No problem, skip the bus riders. Looking to advertise your oil change/lube shop, hit the car drivers only.

    It’s rather bothersome that all new advancements are better ways to try and sell us crap.

  4. It seems they haven’t discovered cyclists yet.

Comments have been disabled for this post