Research & Innovation Services

Improving Mobile Services

KTA Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award

Dr Eamonn O'Neill, Dept of Computer Science and Vodafone Group R&D

“We left behind an analytical tool that Vodafone can use to model users’ mobility patterns in relation to sensor arrays, and a person trained to use the simulation tool and to extend it as desired.”
Eamonn O’Neill, Department of Computer Science, University of Bath
“This robust and flexible tool provides a time-saving decision aid and will have an impact on Vodafone Group R&D’s processes, making the investigation of mobility- and encounter-sensing more efficient.  Ultimately, this kind of work will help us to recommend new services and product ideas.”
David Pollington, Head of Technical Research - Consumer & Internet, Vodafone Group R&D
“The software tool is now part of our armoury, available to be deployed and further developed on a wide range of projects.”
Tom Lovett, Research Engineer, Vodafone Group R&D


As mobile phone devices and networks become more sophisticated, opportunities arise to develop new services that harness data on a user’s location, mobility patterns, contacts and social networks.  To develop new technologies and services, data on the proximity of different users is valuable in characterising phone users’ movements and encounters. However, gathering such data in the field is expensive and problematic.  If mobility sensor networks are used in gathering such data, a key challenge lies in knowing the data’s reliability and validity.


Bath researchers using computer-based simulations of human mobility had previously developed techniques to improve the accuracy of encounter data generated from sensor networks.  The Knowledge Transfer Fellowship transferred analytical tools and techniques for understanding human mobility and encounter from University of Bath researchers to Vodafone Group R & D specialists. To embed the knowledge transfer, James Mitchell and Eamonn O’Neill developed a software tool that modelled where and how to place sensors in field studies in order to generate high-quality data about people’s movements and encounters. They related patterns in the data to Vodafone’s ongoing research. Vodafone specialists were also instructed on how to develop the software tool for other applications by creating additional code.  

Benefits and outcomes

  • The software tool can save time and resources by using simulations to test and fine-tune scenarios before engaging in costly field trials.
  • Ultimately, the tool could have wide application. For example, it could model the spread of malware (proximity-borne viruses) from one mobile phone to another, suggesting how such attacks could be prevented. The tool could also have environmental benefits, enabling R & D specialists to create networks and services that reduce energy consumption (for example, lowering the energy consumed for each MB of data downloaded from a mobile network). 

Project team

Dr Eamonn O'Neill, Principal Investigator, Department of Computer Science
Mr James Mitchell, KT Fellow, Department of Computer Science
David Pollington, Head of Technical Research - Consumer & Internet, Vodafone Group R&D
Tom Lovett, Research Engineer, Vodafone Group R&D

Funded by the University of Bath’s EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account