Smartphone mobility monitoring strongly predicts the outbreak of COVID-19

Monitoring mobility using data from mobile phones showing higher human movement is a strong predictor of increased COVID-19 rates, according to new data in CMAJ (Journal of Canadian Medical Association).

This study shows that mobility is strongly predicted [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] Growth rate of SARS-CoV-2 up to 3 weeks in the future and strict measures will still be needed until spring 2021 in Canada. “

Dr. Kevin Brown, Ontario Public Health

Until Canadians are widely vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, nonpharmaceutical public health interventions such as physical distancing and limiting social contacts will be the main population tool to control the spread of the virus.

“Mobility measures involving human activities by anonymously monitoring smartphones are believed to be reasonable substitutes for out-of-home contact rates; these measures can provide more timely and reliable sources of contact rate information compared to time use or contact trace surveys,” the authors write.

The researchers reviewed anonymous data on smartphone mobility from March 15, 2020 to March 6, 2021, both at the national and provincial levels, controlling the date and temperature. They found that the increase in Canadian mobility outside their homes increased by 10% correlated with 25% growth in subsequent weekly SARS-CoV-2 growth rates. They looked at the mobility threshold (the level required to control the virus) and the mobility gap (the difference between the threshold and the actual movement).

“The mobility threshold and mobility gap can be used by public health and government officials to assess the level of constraints needed to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and to guide the implementation and intensity of nonpharmaceutical public health interventions to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors write.


Journal of Canadian Medical Association

Journal reference:

Brown, KA, and others. (2021) Mobility gap: an estimate of the mobility thresholds required to control SARS-CoV-2 in Canada. Journal of Canadian Medical Association.