Police may be able to predict the future locations of crime – echoing science fiction film Minority Report – according to computer scientists at the University of Birmingham.
A smart phone may soon be able to predict, down to 20 metres, where its user might be going, according to researchers who have devised an algorithm which can capture a users movement patterns.
The researchers now hope to use the algorithm to support the development of mobile apps for personalised information retrieval and marketing.
This new data could be also by used by the police, advertisers and retailers, the university said.
Dr Mirco Musolesi, from the university’s School of Computer Science, who led the study, said: “Information extracted from the usage of a mobile phone is an intriguing source of data about people behaviour.
“We have shown that the accuracy of the prediction of an individual’s future locations could be improved if his or her previous movement and the mobility information of his or her social group are taken into account.”
Dr Manlio De Domenico, who took part in the research, said: “In a world dominated by social networks and always-connected mobile devices, the potential applications of our study are many, in particular for marketing, advertising, and personalised services.
“If a system is able to predict with reasonable accuracy where the user is directed, it could provide geo-localised and personalised recommendations based on his or her future movement.
“For example, a user might receive meal offers related to restaurants in the area they are moving towards.”
Antonio Lima, a PhD student of the School of Computer Science, added: “In order to predict movements of people accurately, this study leverages their synchronicity and correlation.
“For example, friends John and Emily usually have lunch together either at a Chinese restaurant close to John’s office.
“Sometimes, though, they like to go a little farther to an Italian restaurant.
“When Emily is heading to the Italian place, this algorithm uses this information to predict that John is very likely to go there soon as well.”
The research has won the Nokia Mobile Data Open Challenge, in the area of ‘big data mining’, where participants analysed a large dataset containing various information about 200 mobile users over more than a year.
The authors of the study will continue to work on the underlying questions related to the modelling and understanding of human behaviour, such as ‘why do we move in the geographic space in the way we do?’