Contact duration: Intricacies of human mobility

Leonardo Tonetto*, Malintha Adikari, Nitinder Mohan, Aaron Yi Ding, Jörg Ott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Human mobility shapes our daily lives, our urban environment and even the trajectory of a global pandemic. While various aspects of human mobility and inter-personal contact duration have already been studied separately, little is known about how these two key aspects of our daily lives are fundamentally connected. Better understanding of such interconnected human behaviors is crucial for studying infectious diseases, as well as opportunistic content forwarding. To address these deficiencies, we conducted a study on a mobile social network of human mobility and contact duration, using data from 71 persons based on GPS and Bluetooth logs for 2 months in 2018. We augment these data with location APIs, enabling a finer granular characterization of the users’ mobility in addition to contact patterns. We model stops durations to reveal how time-unbounded-stops (e.g., bars or restaurants) follow a log-normal distribution while time-bounded-stops (e.g., offices, hotels) follow a power-law distribution. Furthermore, our analysis reveals contact duration adheres to a log-normal distribution, which we use to model the duration of contacts as a function of the duration of stays. We further extend our understanding of contact duration during trips by modeling these times as a Weibull distribution whose parameters are a function of trip length. These results could better inform models for information or epidemic spreading, helping guide the future design of network protocols as well as policy decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100196
JournalOnline Social Networks and Media
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bluetooth sensing
  • COVID-19
  • Human mobility
  • Opportunistic forwarding


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