iPhone fireflies across the Europen sky

Posted to Maps  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

A few months ago there was a lot of hoopla around the iPhone and the recording of your location. Crowdflow wants to take advantage of this opportunity to build an open database of location traces that people can use for research. Using their existing data so far, from 880 phones, Michael Kreil of Crowdflow mapped people moving around in Europe (in Germany for the most part). The results are beautiful.

The movements have a lovely firefly aesthetic as people, or I guess phones, move about the area. City centers of course glow brighter, and areas pulsate as night time comes and then becomes bright again in the morning.

Watch the animation play out in the videos below. The two are the same data, but with different color schemes. Increase size and resolutions for maximum effect. All it needs is some music for ultimate sexy.

[Crowdflow via infosthetics]


  • looks like some ppl forget to switch their iphone into airplane mode when travelling by plane…

  • Why is most of the data concentrated in Germany? Did Apple concentrate its efforts to collect location data from iPhones there? And what about the related personal privacy issues that are being discussed in Germany now? The “fireflies” might be pretty, but I don’t want to be mapped and stored without my knowledge.

    • Gerard St. Croix July 18, 2011 at 4:20 am

      While I agree with the sentiment, you lost that fight when you chose a walled garden system like the Apple iphone. Steve Jobs decides what data they track about you, you don’t.

      I use another phone OS, one that allows me to tailor every single bit of data moving in and out of my device. As ever, it’s far more efficient to be an informed consumer than to complain about how violated you’ve been after the fact.

    • George Hayduke July 18, 2011 at 5:51 am

      Apple/Android philosophizing aside, the data used in this visualization was donated by the iPhone users.

  • I’m glad the data was donated, but I agree with Gerard – it’s better to be informed before giving up rights (to privacy, in this case). It seems to me that people are all too willing to give up such rights or do not read the fine print in which they give them up.

    I don’t have an iPhone, but I will check my somewhat older phone to see if I’m providing data that I don’t want to provide. And thanks for the note on the OS. If I ever do update my technology, I’ll be sure to inform myself.

    Are laptops being tracked as well?


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