Utilizing Cellular Devices to fight Covid-19
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
I’ve always been amazed that private companies have access to cell phone locations and data. How is it that companies can capture this type of data and ultimately monetize it? Thankfully, a Canadian company called BlueDot is utilizing this cellular location data for the greater good and helping fight the current pandemic.
Last week I wrote a post that discussed Douglas County being one of the first counties in Colorado to loosen the restrictions on social distancing. The post included a few demographic details like median ages and incomes, healthcare status and percentage of the population that may be considered at-risk. It gave a quick look at what makes Douglas County considered less at-risk than other Colorado counties. What I didnt discuss is why Douglas County may be ahead of the so-called “curve”.
This is where the valuable data compiled from BlueDot comes into play. Thanks to ESRI, the cell phone location data is now aggregated into a convenient ArcGIS Online feature layer.
I was able to import and view this data in Business Analyst. The data includes a few dozen useful attributes, but the 3 that I wanted to key on were:
percent_stay (% of devices that stayed within 200m of their residence),
prev_wk_percent_change_max (% increase in max distance device traveled)
base_percent_change_percent_stay (% change in percent_stay for the day)
Business Analyst makes it easy to weigh the different variables and display the results on an interactive map. Displaying each county in Colorado, I set the following weights:
24% percent stay
25% previous week change
161% base percent stay change
Lo and behold, Douglas County was the ONLY county in Colorado to fit the above description. The percentages prove that Douglas County was at the top of the list for counties that obeyed the stay at home orders as almost a quarter of the county population was within 200m of their residence in a given day.
Below is an infographic I produced that shows other interesting stats like max distance between device check-ins, weekly device counts and changes in device behavior. It will be interesting to monitor this data and analyze the results in the coming weeks. It's safe to assume as the stay at home restrictions loosen, the device data will show less check-ins at home and a larger max distance between device check-ins.
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