Probabilistic Modelling for Unsupervised Analysis of Human Behaviour in Smart Cities

Yazan Qarout, Yordan P. Raykov, Max A. Little

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The growth of urban areas in recent years has motivated a large amount of new sensor applications in smart cities. At the centre of many new applications stands the goal of gaining insights into human activity. Scalable monitoring of urban environments can facilitate better informed city planning, efficient security, regular transport and commerce. A large part of monitoring capabilities have already been deployed; however, most rely on expensive motion imagery and privacy invading video cameras. It is possible to use a low-cost sensor alternative, which enables deep understanding of population behaviour such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) data. However, the automated analysis of such low dimensional sensor data, requires new flexible and structured techniques that can describe the generative distribution and time dynamics of the observation data, while accounting for external contextual influences such as time of day or the difference between weekend/weekday trends. In this paper, we propose a novel time series analysis technique that allows for multiple different transition matrices depending on the data’s contextual realisations all following shared adaptive observational models that govern the global distribution of the data given a latent sequence. The proposed approach, which we name Adaptive Input Hidden Markov model (AI-HMM) is tested on two datasets from different sensor types: GPS trajectories of taxis and derived vehicle counts in populated areas. We demonstrate that our model can group different categories of behavioural trends and identify time specific anomalies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number784
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2020

    Bibliographical note

    © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

    Funding: We would like to thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for
    their support and contribution to this work, without whom, this research will not be possible.


    • Probabilistic modelling
    • Smart city
    • Time series
    • Trajectory analysis


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