Analyzing smartphones’ geolocation data to track movements during lockdown in Italy

The purpose of this exercise is to analyze the effect of the measures taken to limit the spread of the infection.

Analyzing smartphones’ geolocation data to track movements during lockdown in Italy
Analyzing smartphones’ geolocation data to track movements during lockdown in Italy

Analyzing smartphones’ geolocation data to track movements during lockdown in Italy

The University of Turin in collaboration with Cuebiq has come up with a database that showcases movements of about 170,000 smartphones in the weeks that followed the news of the first patient of Codogno. The purpose of this exercise is to analyze the effect of the measures taken to limit the spread of the infection.

The most effective method of preventing the spread of coronavirus is to simply stay indoors. By now they all agree on this, and the government provisions on this are clear: it is necessary to remain within the four walls unless valid reasons are given, and even more the movements from town to town must be limited.

To understand, however, if the regulations passed are actually having an effect on the movement of people in our country, the University of Turin in collaboration with the US company Cuebiq has analyzed the movements of tens of thousands of Italians in the past few weeks based on incontrovertible data: the geolocation of their smartphones.

How the data was obtained

The study was published in these days and takes into consideration the data of 170,000 smartphones regarding the GPS position, the connected WiFi networks, the nearby Bluetooth signalers and the connected cellular networks.

This is information obtained precisely from Cuebiq in a transparent way (consent to the acquisition is requested in the company's partner apps) and then made anonymous so that the movements of a single user cannot be reconstructed and traced back to his identity.

In fact, what mattered to bring out from the research was not the movement of the individuals, but a distributed map of the 170,000 users who participated in the collection, which highlighted how our habits changed in a few days.

In the week from 22 to 28 February all the inhabitants of northern Italy started to travel less, while between Lodi and Cremona the reduction in travel was immediately around 30 percent.

From February 29 to March 6, the re-movement in travel began to affect the whole of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna, with particular reference to Cremona, Parma, Piacenza and Bologna. The week of the lockdown was clearly the decisive one: throughout Italy, no province excluded, the reduction in the movements of the inhabitants was more than 50 percent.