Validating the Use of Wi-Fi Signals to Estimate Hyperlocal Urban Populations
2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (Big Data), Los Angeles, CA, USA, 2019, pp. 1650-1655
The widespread adoption and use of mobile phone and Wi-Fi enabled devices has created new sources of big data useful for understanding urban mobility and real-time population activity. Wi-Fi networks in particular are being increasingly deployed throughout dense urban areas providing new possibilities to study the dynamics of urban populations. However, there is little known about the ability of Wi-Fi networks to quantify urban populations in real-time, including the accuracy, coverage and capture rate of these networks. In this research, we compare three methods for generating population estimates using Wi-Fi probe request data and validate these approaches with manual count data for a two month period. Despite concerns related to data bias and representativeness, we find that Wi-Fi data can be a viable source of information for estimating urban populations.