Case study: Optimization of bus routes based on mobile phone data

This story grabbed my attention because it is about an innovative way of using data efficiently. This article about optimization of bus routes in Ivory Coast explains how they used mobile phone data to track how the people use buses and based on the findings they proposed an optimization of bus routes.

They acquired about two and a half billion mobile phone records from one of the telecommunications providers. They focused on the capital city Abidjan and its suburbs and tracked how individuals move among the cell towers which is analogous to tracking their geographical whereabouts. Thus they identified the most used routes along which people travel regularly. As a result they implemented two new regular bus services and extended an existing one. On average this shortened travel times by about 10 percent.

The example is especially interesting because it relied only on digital data without having to go out into the field to interview commuters which would have increased the time and cost of the project. Most likely data could be used for many useful other purposes as well, we just have to think out of the box.

Despite concerns about data privacy, there are many uses for data that is gathered in information systems everywhere, as long as they are available in an anonymous format so that personal information is not disclosed.


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