Department of Built Environment

TrafficSense research

Information about the purpose of TrafficSense research and how it is conducted.
A street scene on Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki

Aims of TrafficSense research

TrafficSense collects anonymous data about your mobility: locations and forms of transportation (walking, driving a car, riding a bike or using public transportation). By analysing a mass of mobility data, we can produce new research knowledge regarding mobility behaviour.

This knowledge makes it possible to improve the planning of traffic and mobility services. In addition, we attempt to estimate the impact of new mobility services on mobility behaviour.

In 2017, a TrafficSense pilot study was conducted among students and employees who commute to Otaniemi. While the pilot study has now ended, we continue to use TrafficSense data provided by volunteers to study the mobility effects of the expanded metro service and other changes to the transport environment.

A new study, beginning in 2018, focuses on the mobility behaviours of commuters and inhabitants of  Jätkäsaari. Jätkäsaari has posed a tough challenge to mobility service planning, and our aim is to find out how people in the area actually move and what mobility services they use. The study also covers the assessment of the effects of new mobility services.

The study is being organised in collaboration between Forum Virium Helsinki and Aalto University under the Last Mile research project, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the six cities participating in the 6Aika initiative and the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

Participation and termination

You can freely decide whether to participate in the study or not. If you do volunteer to participate in the study, you have the right to terminate your participation at any time and without repercussions. All collected data is anonymous.

We may use the application to ask you background questions for the study – your socioeconomic background, mobility habits and opportunities etc. You also have the right not to answer any questions you wish not to answer. Refusing to answer does not affect your participation in the study.

In practice, participation in the study means installing the TrafficSense application on your smart device, using the application and answering mobility-related questions through the application.

If you wish to suspend your participation in the study for a period of time, you may stop the collection of data with the 'Service Stop' button in the application and resume at a later date.

If you wish to terminate your participation in the study, simply delete the application from your device. The data collected before termination may still be used for research purposes.

The TrafficSense research application and the data we collect

The TrafficSense application collects anonymous location data and data about means of transportation (stationary, walking, driving). To identify means of transportation, we use a Google-developed tool that infers a means of transportation from your movement speed and data from your device's accelerometer. We do not collect accelerometer data.

Due to some inaccuracies in the Google tool, we also aim to identify the use of public transportation by comparing motion and location data with open data available on schedules and routes of public transportation.

In order to collect the data we need, the application requests the following permissions to your device upon installation:

  1. Exact location
  2. Personal information (activity data)
  3. Network connection
  4. Contacts
  5. Automatic launch on device boot

Location data (1) and activity data (2) are used to study your movements. The network connection (3) is used to transmit collected data to the research server. The research application starts automatically when your device is powered on (5).

Your Google Account is used to sign in to the application. To sign in, the Google functionality we use requires access to your contacts (4). We do not use or record any contact data. We will also not ask for or record your Google Account details, only an anonymous, unique identifier provided by Google. This anonymous identifier allows us to show you your data both within the mobile application and through our web application when you sign in with the same Google Account.

We may ask you to provide background information for the study through form questionnaires sent through the application. These questionnaires may also be answered outside the application through a separate service.

TrafficSense terms of use and privacy notice

Network traffic and battery use

Though we strive to minimise the application's energy impact, you may notice that the battery of your device drains faster than before.

The application's impact on battery life depends on what other location or activity data-using applications you use. In our tests, TrafficSense's energy impact is negligible when the device is stationary and only approximately 4 % higher in motion.

As the application uses your internet connection, we recommend a monthly data plan for your device. The application buffers its reports and is able to function on sporadic network connections, such as Wi-Fi networks. Using the application's user-oriented services requires a network connection.

Benefits of participation

TrafficSense offers you a mobility energy certificate that can be compared with other users of the application. You may also view your mobility history and Google-provided traffic data on the map. You can also choose your favourite locations and navigate to them with the help of a Google-provided service.

As the research progresses, we aim to increase the application's functionality to offer new services, such as notifying you of relevant traffic disruptions based on your mobility history.

By participating in this study, you help produce knowledge that can be used in the future to design and implement better and more energy-efficient services for mobility and transportation.


TrafficSense is a tool for collecting data on mobility behaviour through crowd sensing.

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Traffic scene from Helsinki with the TrafficSense logo
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