Approaching the limit of predictability in human mobility

Xin Lu, Erik Wetter, Nita Bharti, Andrew J. Tatem, Linus Bengtsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Scopus citations


In this study we analyze the travel patterns of 500,000 individuals in Cote d'Ivoire using mobile phone call data records. By measuring the uncertainties of movements using entropy, considering both the frequencies and temporal correlations of individual trajectories, we find that the theoretical maximum predictability is as high as 88%. To verify whether such a theoretical limit can be approached, we implement a series of Markov chain (MC) based models to predict the actual locations visited by each user. Results show that MC models can produce a prediction accuracy of 87% for stationary trajectories and 95% for non-stationary trajectories. Our findings indicate that human mobility is highly dependent on historical behaviors, and that the maximum predictability is not only a fundamental theoretical limit for potential predictive power, but also an approachable target for actual prediction accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2923
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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