Modelling the scaling properties of human mobility

Chaoming Song, Tal Koren, Pu Wang, Albert László Barabási

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

729 Scopus citations


Individual human trajectories are characterized by fat-tailed distributions of jump sizes and waiting times, suggesting the relevance of continuous-time random-walk (CTRW) models for human mobility. However, human traces are barely random. Given the importance of human mobility, from epidemic modelling to traffic prediction and urban planning, we need quantitative models that can account for the statistical characteristics of individual human trajectories. Here we use empirical data on human mobility, captured by mobile-phone traces, to show that the predictions of the CTRW models are in systematic conflict with the empirical results. We introduce two principles that govern human trajectories, allowing us to build a statistically self-consistent microscopic model for individual human mobility. The model accounts for the empirically observed scaling laws, but also allows us to analytically predict most of the pertinent scaling exponents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)818-823
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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