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Outdoor location tracking of mobile devices in cellular networks

  • Trogh, Jens1
  • Plets, David1
  • Surewaard, Erik2
  • Spiessens, Mathias2
  • Versichele, Mathias3
  • Martens, Luc1
  • Joseph, Wout1
  • 1 IMEC - Ghent University, Department of Information Technology, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 2 Telenet Group, Brussels, Belgium , Brussels (Belgium)
  • 3 RetailSonar, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
Published Article
EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
May 08, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s13638-019-1459-4
Springer Nature


This paper presents a technique and experimental validation for anonymous outdoor location tracking of all users residing on a mobile cellular network. The proposed technique does not require any intervention or cooperation on the mobile side but runs completely on the network side, which is useful to automatically monitor traffic, estimate population movements, or detect criminal activity. The proposed technique exploits the topology of a mobile cellular network, enriched open map data, mode of transportation, and advanced route filtering. Current tracking algorithms for cellular networks are validated in optimal or controlled environments on a small dataset or are merely validated by simulations. In this work, validation data consisting of millions of parallel location estimations from over a million users are collected and processed in real time, in cooperation with a major network operator in Belgium. Experiments are conducted in urban and rural environments near Ghent and Antwerp, with trajectories on foot, by bike, and by car, in the months May and September 2017. It is shown that the mode of transportation, smartphone usage, and environment impact the accuracy and that the proposed AMT location tracking algorithm is more robust and outperforms existing techniques with relative improvements up to 88%. Best performances were obtained in urban environments with median accuracies up to 112 m.

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