Mobile Phone Connections: A Visualization

    July 8, 2011

As society continues its move towards becoming a mobile device world, seeing the level of connectivity of mobile phone users only emphasizes the proliferation. Besides that, the data in these connection reports do a great job demonstrating of who is connected to who, and where these connections originate from. Thanks to a joint effort from AT&T and MIT, there is such a visualization map that details these connections on a state-by-state basis.

The visualized map, called “the Connected States of America,” breaks down these connections, all the way to the county level, showing the level of connectivity, along with where many of these connections are going. As indicated, because it’s a state-by-state breakdown (actually, county-by-county within these states), the map shows these connections in the United States only. Nevertheless, there’s a great deal of data available, even without the international aspect. From the map’s description:

This interactive map shows the county to county social interactions given in total call minutes or total number of SMS from the anonymous, aggregated AT&T mobile phone data.

In order to see where connections are happening, simply select a county of interest and the map does the rest. For instance, when Fayette County in Kentucky (Lexington’s home) is selected, you see many of outgoing connections happen in-state. However, there are also quite a few connections in the state of Florida, as well as portions of California. While there are other areas of red interspersed here and there — Ohio and Indiana, for example — outside of these area, Kentucky residents with mobile phones don’t have a lot of use for calls to states like Nebraska and Kansas.

The following screenshot should clarify matters:

Connected States

The red indicates where the most connections are occurring, while the blank areas indicate the exact opposite. There’s also a layered map that shows three things: increased urbanization/population density, the mobile connections between users, and their assigned community, which was done during the creation of the interactive map. The site explains the communities as follows:

Communities based on call data is one example of how such interaction-based communities can be defined. The result is striking in that some states merge and others split.

That should make the map a little easier to decipher:

Connectivity Map
Click for bigger image

There’s also a video available that animates these connections, and it details how mobile phone connections create new communities, which should further help explain their approach with dividing the communities like they do on the maps:

From the most basic interpretation of the Connected States maps, it’s clear we are a nation of connected individuals, at least in heavily-populated areas. Unfortunately, the map leaves out areas like Montana and the Dakota states. Apparently, these places are too sparsely populated for the goals of the joint research project:

Population Map

If the research continues, it would be pretty awesome to see this done a worldwide scale, especially for highly-connected places like Japan, South Korea, and England. It would aslo be important to include information about the Nordic countries, thanks to their innovations in the telecommunications industry.