What is Sparrow?

In order to get information about the travel patterns of individuals, traditional paper and pencil techniques and diaries are often used. Unfortunately, this process is often not only experienced as burdensome for end users, it also lacks detailed spatial and temporal information and it also has important limitations in terms of length of the survey that one can conduct (e.g. often 1 or 2 days). The fundamental basis of this problem has been dealt with in the prestigious Open-FET FP7 DATA SIM project ( that was coordinated by IMOB/Hasselt University.

As a potential solution for this problem, the ‘Sparrow’ application has been developed. The tool is operational on Android mobile phones and collects GPS information while the user is travelling. Intelligent algorithms have been developed to be able to identify the different destinations that are visited by the end user. By means of a fully automated process, these stops are identified and the user is only asked to label by which transport mode the destination was reached and the purpose of this trip (destination).

This is not only a high user-friendly approach (approx. 1-2 minutes of the user’s time needed), it also gives the researcher the ability to have more detailed information than conventional paper-and-pencil approaches. Using this technology, complex and advanced (big) data analysis techniques can be applied, enabling us to unfold an unprecedented level of multi-dimensional (time, location, purpose, transport mode) trip information that is contained in the data.

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