By Navin Vembar
When we think about mobility data—location information that encompasses how people move—there are some immediate uses that come to mind. But decades of study about human mobility can help us discover insights beyond the obvious. Camber Systems’ sophisticated data analytics help dig deep to improve the way we plan and manage disasters, improve communication and coordination, and expand the economy.
1. Identifying COVID-19 Hot Spots
Data analytics are particularly useful in the operational work of scientists, researchers, and epidemiologists as they conduct studies and policy development that relates to controlling the spread of COVID-19, identifying current and future hot spots, and planning for a gradual return to work and school.
Data analytics can be used operationally, for example, to identify hot spots that resulted from Memorial Day weekend mobility spikes. Check out the post we co-wrote with Nishant Kishore, CEO and Co-founder at EpiTech Consultants, documenting Memorial Day spikes in mobility and outlining what vacation destination areas can expect to see when travel increases over the summer months.
With the right data in the hands of the public health policy makers who are closest to the center of a public health issue, they’re immediately in a position to positively influence the health impact.
2. Shaping Geo-Specific Policies to Protect People
We’ve been working with data scientists in Minnesota to transform data analytics into actionable movement insights. Minnesota officials, equipped with the right data and the right scientists, are now able to determine how to keep people in their state safe and decide when and to what extent businesses and schools should reopen. Data analytics informs not only their policy decisions, but it also helps them shape the right messaging so that people can augment their movement habits to comply with changing policies.
On the flip side, data analytics could also tell the civic body that people are not conforming to recommended policies, and that they’re moving far earlier than they should be. This is an indication of risk that provides these locales with the information they need to prepare for additional spikes.
When data is paired with additional insights, such as key knowledge from epidemiologists and scientists, local governments can make informed decisions that keep people safe.
3. Predicting Disaster, Risk, and Resilience
Data analytics also helps local governments and relief agencies prepare for natural disasters, calculate risk, and measure resilience after an emergency event.
Some types of disaster physically require people to stay in a certain place, or to leave a certain place, such as a tornado or hurricane. Governments can be more responsive to those kinds of events when they’re equipped with good mobility data. They can ask questions such as:
- How should we respond to this insight?
- How are we prepared to respond to this insight?
- How can we allocate resources differently to better meet emerging needs, based on this insight?
But beyond this, mobility data can also provide insight into the connectivity of a community with its neighbors; are people easily able to move to a neighboring city? Do they do that on a regular basis? Generally, locations with more movement to its neighbors are more resilient, as they have a place to go when disaster strikes.
4. Cross-County Coordination
Bordering counties may want to work together to understand how frequently people are moving across county lines. Aggregate data about where people might be going when they’re leaving from a particular location can inform these entities as they construct effective messaging across the appropriate channels with the goal of reaching people who may need to know about local policy changes. It can also help them collaborate more effectively on policies that consider the reach and impact across county lines.
5. Planning for Non-Disaster Events
Mobility information can just as easily be used to make informed decisions around non-disaster events that involve people on the move, such as sporting events and entertainment arenas.
Data insights about the number of people who typically attend games or live events, the flow of people to events, the preparedness of transit systems and infrastructure that support transportation to the event can help cities and towns determine:
- How to optimize transit flows
- Plan for how to keep people safe as the move
- Understand where people are coming from and how far they are traveling to attend the event
- Whether the locale is prepared on any given day to absorb the influx of people safely and effectively.
6. Informing Tourism and Marketing
The same types of data inquiries can be made by tourism boards and marketing outfits to uncover actionable information about how to best understand movement, points of origins, and destinations. Rural tourism in particular can benefit from understanding the geographic demographics of visitors to their areas. Data analytics can help these tourism boards attract more people, and to position their offerings with those people to stimulate and sustain their economies.
Navin Vembar is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Camber Systems, lending nearly 20 years of experience in government tech and a background in mathematics, data, and software to help make the world safer and better at every level of government. Navin got his start in government as a GS-7 software developer at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then moved on to run large programs at the FAA, including one that modernized the exchange of geospatial aeronautical information throughout the national airspace. Most recently, he served as the Chief Technology Officer of the General Services Administration. Navin holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was named a Fed 100 by Federal Computer Week and a Digital Transformation Hero by FedScoop. He cares deeply about delivering impactful, ethical technology that can transform the way government agencies meet their mission.