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Wi-Fi Breadcrumbs Reveal Pedestrian Patterns


Tracking pedestrians.

A researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has used the traces people leave as they pass Wi-Fi access points to learn about the comings and goings of pedestrians.

Credit: Alain Herzog/EPFL

The traces people leave as they pass Wi-Fi access points could provide key insights into the comings and goings of pedestrians.

Antonin Danalet, a researcher in the Transport and Mobility Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), used this cost-effective approach to study the eating destinations of students on campus. He recorded more than 2 million points picked up by the campus' 789 Wi-Fi antennas over 10 days in 2012.

EPFL's information technology service provided anonymized data that enabled Danalet to link the points he collected with about 2,000 individuals. Danalet merged Wi-Fi location data with map data, and was able to reconstruct routes and identify when pedestrians reached their destination, how long they spent there, and what they did.

He verified the accuracy of his model partly by comparing the Wi-Fi traces to the results of surveys asking students about their movement on campus.

Danalet says the approach can predict changes in what people do and where they go, and could provide clues about the use of pedestrian infrastructure at music festivals, museums, and hospitals.

From Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
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