Software Program Can Predict Your Location 5 Years from Now

A new computer software program is reputedly able to predict where you will be five years from now. Far Out, developed by Adam Sadilek and John Krumm, uses “a nonparametric method that extracts significant and robust patterns in location data, learns their associations with contextual features (such as day of week), and subsequently leverages this information to predict the most likely location at any given time in the future,” according to its creators.

The program was implemented by using more than 700 volunteers in Seattle, giving them a GPS device, and telling them to take it with them everywhere they went. The vehicles that the volunteers used in their daily transportation, even including buses, were also given GPS devices. The result was data comprised of 150 million location points over 32,000 days.

People’s routines were catalogued, enabling the program predict the “long-term mobility” of the subjects.

The researchers told Fast Company that the program could ascertain when peoples’ routines changed:

For example, [Far Out] might notice that Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually about the same and fairly consistent from week to week. Then when we ask about a future Tuesday or Thursday, the algorithm automatically produces a typical Tuesday/Thursday as a prediction. If there is a sharp transition, such as a move to another city, the system notices there is a discrepancy between its predictions and actual data and adapts to the new patterns. Most people have only a few "revolutionary” changes in the course of their lives, so Far Out isn't caught off guard too often.

It is possible the results from Far Out could predict population growth, the spread of diseases, the density of traffic, and even the demand for broadband access.


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