Summary of UberMedia Webinar: Analyzing Covid-19 Impact on Human Movement Data

Government relies on Location Intelligence to make Return to Work decisions

RWG Staff
April 17, 2020

On April 16th 2020, members of UberMedia’s public sector team and New York City’s convention and tourism data team gathered to provide insights on human movement, coronavirus exposure risk and the value of continuing social distancing protocols. “We want to understand the impact of social distancing on populations and help our leaders with the pandemic decision process,” said Evelina Giang, director of data solutions and analytics for UberMedia in Pasadena, Calif.

Retail is virtually non-existent

Retail analysis by UberMedia and its location data partners on foot traffic shows the incredible impact on stores and the retail sector. “We coordinate the mobile device and the timestamp of where we see the mobile device. Reaction to shelter in place orders proves that store traffic is virtually non-existent,” notes Giang. UberMedia is based in Pasedena and modeled the impact in key cities like L.A. and New York for the webinar. 

The study started with a review of the impact of public gatherings— even with shelter in place orders.While the Church community has generally moved quickly and shifted to online services, there were some outliers and the ripple effect is keen. The drop off of in-person church attendance in Florida was important to stop the spread; but the River at Tampa Bay continued to meet and infected much larger groups. 

At Liberty University in southwestern Virginia, School President Jerry Falwell, Jr. defied shelter orders. Over a dozen students quickly got sick with coronavirus after the university reconvened for the semester after Spring break. They dispersed across the country and caused infection. Holding an event will have a tremendously adverse impact on populations,” said Giang. “Outbreak epicenters show how mobile people are—whether inadvertent or not—and even the Liberty modelling shows these few students spread the illness and virus nationwide.

UberMedia used three methodologies to show exposure rates: 

  • Identify High Risk Events
  • Pull in the Location Data
  • Layer in Public Covid-19 Data

Jeremy Thacker, Director of Government Sales, works with UberMedia at the federal, state and local levels to help find creative answers to complex issues like the coronavirus pandemic. “We apply our data to mitigate the effect of the virus on vulnerable populations,” said Thacker. 

Geofencing allows UberMedia to look at populations, including a recent study of the homeless in L.A. County. There are some 50,000 homeless in Los Angeles and 50% of them have smartphones and devices to provide location data. The study showed a great deal of activity around downtown L.A. for homeless encampments. This increased concentration poses a risk for homeless people to become infected as they live in close proximity in these encampments or in affordable housing downtown. 

Tourism challenged to create virtual events and destinations

A second analyst provided impact information on the New York City Community Parks. Kaitlyn Drake is the New York City tourism senior data analyst and a director at NYC and Company. New Yorkers, apparently, are adapting well to coronavirus and using the parks. 

“We are promoting a virtual NYC where residents can travel to museums and cultural attractions virtually,” said Drake. “Our lives have drastically changed. We are used to moving across the entire city on a daily basis. We are seeing the location movement from March 9 to March 30 and we note a massive dip when Governor Cuomo announced the shelter in place for all of New York on March 18.”

Total Central Park activity declined after March 18. The majority of the people coming-in to the park are usually international travelers and people from outside the five boroughs area. However, the majority now are Manhattanites who are seeking exercise, air or more fun. Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan is the place for business lunch and generally has New York Metro residents.

There is a deeper dive into the data that shows a change in tourism after the shelter in place, specifically as a result of fewer businesses being open. These findings can be explored further using the UberMedia tool, or Unacast's platform for the Travel and Tourism industry.

RWG Staff

RWG staff report the latest news and and views from the location intelligence industry.