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Journal Articles Journal of the Royal Society Interface Year : 2018

Tracking random walks


In empirical studies, trajectories of animals or individuals are sampled in space and time. Yet, it is unclear how sampling procedures bias the recorded data. Here, we consider the important case of movements that consist of alternating rests and moves of random durations and study how the estimate of their statistical properties is affected by the way we measure them. We first discuss the ideal case of a constant sampling interval and short-tailed distributions of rest and move durations, and provide an exact analytical calculation of the fraction of correctly sampled trajectories. Further insights are obtained with simulations using more realistic long-tailed rest duration distributions showing that this fraction is dramatically reduced for real cases. We test our results for real human mobility with high-resolution GPS trajectories, where a constant sampling interval allows one to recover at best 18% of the movements, while over-evaluating the average trip length by a factor of 2. Using a sampling interval extracted from real communication data, we recover only 11% of the moves, a value that cannot be increased above 16% even with ideal algorithms. These figures call for a more cautious use of data in quantitative studies of individuals' movements.
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cea-01502139 , version 1 (05-04-2017)



Riccardo Gallotti, Rémi Louf, Jean-Marc Luck, Marc Barthelemy. Tracking random walks. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2018, 15, pp.20170776. ⟨10.1098/rsif.2017.0776⟩. ⟨cea-01502139⟩
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