Research / BFI Working PaperJan 29, 2021

Measuring Movement and Social Contact with Smartphone Data: A Real-time Application to COVID-19

Victor Couture, Jonathan Dingel, Allison Green, Jessie Handbury, Kevin R. Williams

Tracking human activity in real time and at fine spatial scale is particularly valuable during episodes such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper, we discuss the suitability of smartphone data for quantifying movement and social contact. These data cover broad sections of theUS population and exhibit pre-pandemic patterns similar to conventional survey data. We develop and make publicly available a location exposure index that summarizes county-to-county movements and a device exposure index that quantifies social contact within venues. We also investigate the reliability of smartphone movement data during the pandemic.

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