Big Data Used To Track “Travel Rates” Relative to Ground Slopes

Big Data

Geographers are now using big data to determine the best mathematical models to help people to travel along ground slopes / Photo by: Xuan Shisheng via Wikimedia Commons


A team of geographers has looked at the way in which people travel along ground slopes, using big data to determine the best mathematical models to help fire crews, city planners, and search-and-rescue teams to be more efficient in the way they carry on with their operations. reports that the geographers leveraged crowd-sourced data to draw up the travel rates for slow, medium, and fast movers. Equipped with the knowledge that different types of people move differently on different land formations, the team asked individuals to hike, jog, and run a combined 81,000 miles around Salt Lake City, Utah.

The research was participated in by more than 30,000 people, thereby solving the initial problem that previous data on slopes and travel rates were conducted on such small sample sizes to be considered accurate.

"Calculating how quickly people move through the environment is a problem more than a century old. Having data from such a large number of people moving at all different speeds allowed us to create much more advanced models than what's been done before," said Philip Dennison, a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Utah and an author on the study. "Any application that estimates how fast people walk, jog, or run from point A to point B can benefit from this work."

The data obtained from these distances were then categorized according to how fast or slow a person moves, regardless of physical fitness.

Using a social fitness application, Strava, the researchers had the track cyclist, runner, hiker, and swimmer participants to bring along their GPS-enabled phones and other devices. Through data obtained from Strava, the researchers then used LIDAR to measure the topography during the process, so they can then use these collected data to “estimate the relationship between slope and travel rates on hiking trails.”

To the uninformed, this might seem like menial research, but for rescue teams and city planners, whose job it is to ensure the safety of everyone, especially people on hiking trails, the resulting research would prove incredibly beneficial.