Estonian mobile operator EMT provided anonymized cell phone user data, such as the location of mobile telephones and the original registration country of a phone, to Positium Labs and the Bank of Estonia in an effort to gather more information about tourism and travel within Estonia and to surrounding European countries.
Positium Labs, a group associated with the University of Tartu, and the Bank of Estonia developed and tested a methodology to collect and analyze mobile phone data. Random ID numbers were assigned to owners of each phone registered with EMT, and their positions were recorded through both passive and active mobile positioning, a process that combines the use of location information from mobile operator memory files and active mobile tracking. This tracking allowed researchers to see how often and for what duration of time people spent traveling to and from Estonia.
Tracking the location of mobile phones has provided insights into the nature of transnational travel to and from Estonia. The frequency and length of stay allowed researchers to classify individuals as business or leisure travelers and the means by which they use to travel, as determined by the speed by which they travel to other locations. This information is useful to understand the volume of tourism and foreign workers, and to tailor services and transport to them accordingly.