High resolution population estimates from telecommunications data

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David A Meyer, Megha Ram, David Rideout, Dongjin Song
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EPJ Data Science (4) 4, 16 May 2015

Spatial variations in the distribution and composition of populations inform urban development, health-risk analyses, disaster relief, and more. Despite the broad relevance and importance of such data, acquiring local census estimates in a timely and accurate manner is challenging because population counts can change rapidly, are often politically charged, and suffer from logistical and administrative challenges. These limitations necessitate the development of alternative or complementary approaches to population mapping. In this paper we develop an explicit connection between telecommunications data and the underlying population distribution of Milan, Italy. We go on to test the scale invariance of this connection and use telecommunications data in conjunction with high-resolution census data to create easily updated and potentially real time population estimates in time and space.