Information Technology & Tourism

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 399–427 | Cite as

Where’s everybody? Comparing the use of heatmaps to uncover cities’ tacit social context in smartphones and pervasive displays

  • Andreas KomninosEmail author
  • Jeries Besharat
  • Denzil Ferreira
  • John Garofalakis
  • Vassilis Kostakos
Original Research


We introduce HotCity, a city-wide social context crowdsourcing platform that utilises user’s current location and geo-tagged social data (e.g., check-ins, “likes” and ratings) to autonomously obtain insight on a city’s tacit social awareness (e.g., “when is best time and where to go out on a Saturday night?”). HotCity is available as a mobile application for Android and as an interactive application on pervasive large displays, showcasing a heatmap of social buzz. We present the results of an in-the-field evaluation with 30 volunteers, of which 27 are tourists of the mobile app, compare it to a previous evaluation of the pervasive display app and also present usage data of free use of the pervasive display app over 3 years in the city of Oulu, Finland. Our data demonstrate that HotCity can communicate effectively the city’s current social buzz, without affecting digital maps’ cartography information. Our empirical analysis highlights a change in tourists’ foci when exploring the city using HotCity. We identify a transition from “individual [places]” to “good [areas]” and “people [choices]”. Our contributions are threefold: a long-term deployment of a city-wide social context crowdsourcing platform; an in-the-field evaluation of HotCity on mobile devices and pervasive displays; and an evaluation of cities’ tacit knowledge as social context as a denominator in city planning and for the development of future mobile social-aware applications.


Mobile maps Social networks Urban context City dynamics Heatmaps Data visualisation 



This work is partially funded by the Academy of Finland (Grants 276786-AWARE, 285062-iCYCLE, 286386-CPDSS, 285459-iSCIENCE), and the European Commission (Grants PCIG11-GA-2012-322138, 645706-GRAGE, and 6AIKA-A71143-AKAI).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Engineering and InformaticsUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Computer Technology Institute and Press “Diophantus”PatrasGreece
  3. 3.Center for Ubiquitous ComputingUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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