Apple has launched a tool that reveals changes in the travel behavior of people who use its Maps app. COVID-19 Apple tracks changes in travel behavior, which helps in the COVID-19 test activity.
The Mobility Trends Report produces three daily percentage figures. It shows how many fewer people are driving, walking and using public transport compared with on 13 January. This is before the coronavirus lockdowns came into effect.
It covers major cities and national figures for 63 countries. Hong Kong is included but not mainland China.
It follows a similar effort by Google.
Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility reports are arguable. More detailed – they cover 130 countries and also report on how busy different types of locations are. However, the search firm has only provided such data for two dates since its launch on 3 April.
Apple also provides a way to export its records as a spreadsheet. As it makes easy for researchers and the media to make use of the data within their own models.
The UK cities covered include London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.
The iPhone-maker does not believe that sharing the information compromises its users’ privacy.
“Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID. Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been.”
Even so, some privacy experts have noted that Google and Apple’s initiatives highlight the insights. As they are able to glean but do not usually share, from people using their products.
“I wonder will ‘mobility data’ used and published by telecom networks, Google and now Apple. Will it make any difference to how individuals view these companies and to their trustworthiness?
Apple is a couple of weeks behind Google in publishing this data. At first glance, it provides a less granular picture.
There are just three categories of activity – walking, driving, and transit. As opposed to Google’s measurement of visits to shops, grocery stores, parks, offices, and other locations.
But unlike Google, Apple allows you to export the raw data and rather than just giving a snapshot. It also provides daily readings from early January right up to last Sunday.
The story, the two sets of figures tell is broadly consistent. Such that France and Italy have bigger declines in activity than the UK. It reflects their tighter lockdowns, and the US is slightly further back.
Apple tracks changes in travel behavior
Although there was a bit of a surge in activity in the UK on Good Friday. It leads up to 65% of normal levels, by Sunday and had sunk back again.
Just how good a picture this log of Apple Maps requests provides must be open to question. Particularly when it comes to walking – how many of us are requesting directions for our short walks from home?
Apple will have far less data than Google, which is using information from every Android user. Such user has agreed to turn on location tracking as well as iPhones that have Google Maps installed.
But in general, this data will provide the government with more reassurance that people are complying with the lockdown restrictions.
COVID-19 Apple tracks changes in travel behavior, which helps in the COVID-19 test activity. To get latest corona update click here