Fireflies HD

The following videos show the movement of 881 iPhones in Europe in April 2011.

Since we couldn’t decide on a color scheme, we published all three:

High Resolution Screenshot

High Resolution Screenshot

High Resolution Screenshot

So, what do you think?

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47 Responses to Fireflies HD

  1. Pit Garbe says:

    Wonderful. Though, vimeo would’ve been my choice for Full HD material.
    Oh, and I wish, more people had donated their data. I can only imagine the awesomeness of all of Europe lighting up in this manner.

  2. Rob Hooft says:

    Looking back at my agenda, I can recognize my own data ;-)

  3. hfietz says:

    What does the brightness of the spots show? It looks nice when they fly in, land and then light up, but what does it mean?

    • Michael Kreil says:

      The geo data of the iPhones are quite accurate, but I only know the locations at specific points in time. So for example I know the accurate position of an iPhone at 12:03 and at 14:27 but I have no clue, how this iPhone had moved in the meantime.

      So my estimation is that an iPhone moves from the last known location at an average speed of 30km/h – in all possible directions. It’s like a diffusion process. That’s why the estimated location becomes more and more blurry and the light fades away.

      And vice versa: If I know, that an iPhone will appear in one hour at a specific location, it should be somewhere nearby now – in a blur with a radius of 30km. (30km in 1 hour = 30km/h)

      And that’s why the image becomes blurry during the night. Most iPhones are not moving in the night; therefore they do not collect data; their positions are vaguer and the lights dissolve.

      • Gabriel says:

        In the case of iphones at night, I think, it is safe to assume that, if there are two log entries that are very close to each other, and the time span between them is rather larger, that the iphone has not moved during that time.

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  7. TrainSup says:

    What software did you use to make these visualizations (which are fantastic by the way!)?

    • Michael Kreil says:

      I used my own tools. Written in Delphi. A combination of some algorithms.

      I will publish the code … if I find some time.

      • A says:

        Code would be awesome – this has as lot of use as a visualization tool

      • Thatbrock says:

        Just curious. What motivated you to use Delphi? That’s an unusual choice for this sort of thing.

        • Michael Kreil says:

          Well, the computational cost of these algorithms are pretty high (3h per video). So using Java (VM) or R would be inefficient. C, C++, Objective-C or Delphi would be a better choice.

          For small tools I prefer Delphi ’cause it’s very easy to add some functionalities like video compression, a http-server (e.g. to create a map tile generating server ) or a http-client (e.g. to distribute the rendering engine on to multiple machines).

          I would not recommend Delphi for big software projects, but it is pretty cool for simple and unusual number crunching “one-time tools”.

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  10. Don Pedro says:

    If you want, I will happily donate my location files, which should help the graphics extend over to the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and of course western Europe…..



  11. PhS says:

    Seems weird to me that some point clearly represent iPhone coming and going by plane … aren’t you supposed to turn of your cell while in the plane ? Then how does the iPhone tracks it location … or better how did you manage to get those supposed flight data ?

    • Michael Kreil says:

      Of course iPhones do not collect any data during flights. But if the last known location of an iPhone is e.g. Paris and the next known location is Berlin and the average speed is 400km/h (600mph), you can estimate the motion of the plane (and the iPhone).

  12. JP says:

    goddamn brilliant. Kudos to you from California. Would love to see this stateside, though you might see less travel. Not sure.

  13. Michael says:

    I would love to see this for the globe with many more phones!

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  16. Martin Malek says:

    Michael, Do you have any more info about the algorithms and tools used for visualization? Any plans of making them public? This all is very interesting, keep up the good work.

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  18. uploaded my data, what beautiful visuals, how i would love them as a screensaver!

    ALSO, this IS iPhone data, so why not develop an app, that shows perhaps realtime or allows you to update your location for that day?


    • Kasper Sørensen says:

      A mate of mine told me about a company called Evertale that is making an app like that..

      Apparently its a “self writing scrapbook of your real life”. It sounds pretty cool..

  19. Rui says:

    The first vid color scheme is by far the most good looking one. It makes it feel night and lights.

  20. Joe says:

    Will you expand the map to cover a wider area? What about Spain and Italy? I just donated my data which happens most of the time in Spain and The USA.

  21. James says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Would love too see this for my own location data! You’re on to a winner if you could make it public and charge for it somehow!!! :)

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  23. twobee says:

    A detailed view of Berlin would be wonderful, because in the actual version it’s just glowing like the sun. :-)

    I really love what you have done with data, the visualisation is amazing. <3

    • Michael Kreil says:

      I already tried to generate a more detailed view, but the amount and the accuracy of the location data is insufficient.

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  25. Matt says:

    Excellent work!
    Can’t wait to see this progress into something even cooler then it already is.

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  27. Adam says:

    I think this is quite amazing and offers a great potential for valuable improvements in areas like infrastructure, disease spread, etc. but there’s a limitation for those of us who work in academia – ethics and privacy issues.

    It looks as though there is quite a lot of potential for “re-identification” of individuals with the current sets of data. I’d be interested to know what level of privacy you might be able to offer people contributing their own information in the future. By ensuring a rigorous deidentification, I think there are a lot more doors that can be opened and potentially a much larger number of people interested in contributing.

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  29. Julianlstar says:

    I love the new visualisations. I think the temporal nature of the donated makes it fascinating. I can even see a journey that I made on the 24th April. Cool stuff.

  30. joseph joy says:

    what an idea

    am impressed

    a kind of infographic…

  31. all n4tural says:

    so pretty!

    have you tried assigning each phone a slightly different shade of the main color, like maybe increment the hex by 1?

    thanks for sharing.

  32. SubZero1993 says:

    Maybe someone can help me..

    One week ago i done a complete restore of my iPhone but now the consolidate.db is still 24 KiloBytes big… before the restore it was 888 KiloBytes… is there something wrong 3G is sometimes activated but not all the time… WLAN is activated all the time…

    ~ Sub

  33. Hessu says:

    It would be really interesting to learn more about the algorithms and libraries you used for this. I have similar data in my database ( and it would be interesting to plot it to videos.

  34. SubZero1993 says:

    Ok, i found this Site ( sry it’s german, but in this news the author writes that Apple has changed the File to save their Locations… it’s now the cache.db

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