A review of quantitative methods for movement data

Jed A. Long, Trisalyn A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


The collection, visualization, and analysis of movement data is at the forefront of geographic information science research. Movement data are generally collected by recording an object's spatial location (e.g., XY coordinates) at discrete time intervals. Methods for extracting useful information, for example space-time patterns, from these increasingly large and detailed datasets have lagged behind the technology for generating them. In this article we review existing quantitative methods for analyzing movement data. The objective of this article is to provide a synthesis of the existing literature on quantitative analysis of movement data while identifying those techniques that have merit with novel datasets. Seven classes of methods are identified: (1) time geography, (2) path descriptors, (3) similarity indices, (4) pattern and cluster methods, (5) individual-group dynamics, (6) spatial field methods, and (7) spatial range methods. Challenges routinely faced in quantitative analysis of movement data include difficulties with handling space and time attributes together, representing time in GIS, and using classical statistical testing procedures with space-time movement data. Areas for future research include investigating equivalent distance comparisons in space and time, measuring interactions between moving objects, developing predictive frameworks for movement data, integrating movement data with existing geographic layers, and incorporating theory from time geography into movement models. In conclusion, quantitative analysis of movement data is an active research area with tremendous opportunity for new developments and methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-318
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • geographic information science
  • mobile objects
  • spatial analysis
  • spatio-temporal data modeling
  • time geography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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