Archive for the ‘Urban Planning’ Category

Motionworks® Primer Series: Synthetic Populations

Posted on: August 15th, 2023 by Jaclyn Giordano

Motionworks® Primer Series: Synthetic Populations

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are valuable techniques to speed up processes, lower costs, and provide more accurate solutions. In addition, they provide better insights to inform businesses and improve infrastructure in industry verticals such as urban planning, retail, finance, real estate, advertising, marketing, autonomous vehicles, and travel and tourism.

The amount of data required to train these models properly is massive. In order to overcome this obstacle, companies utilize “synthetic data.” By training models with synthetic data, companies are able to overcome challenges such as incomplete datasets, privacy issues, data cleansing, and more. Motionworks® uses a specific type of synthetic data to fuel its Population Intelligence – synthetic population data.

This primer will help you understand everything you need to know about Motionworks’® use of a synthetic population to generate mobility data.

Motionworks® has developed an innovative and cutting-edge approach to population intelligence, revolutionizing the way we harness data for insights. Central to our methodology is the strategic integration of a synthetic or digital population.

It’s important to note that the term “synthetic” may raise eyebrows, suggesting a sense of artificiality, but in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s explore.

What is a Synthetic Population?

A synthetic population, also known as a digital population, is a duplicate of the real population often generated by machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI).

The incorporation of synthetic data stands as a legitimate and often-used technique, garnering widespread adoption and implementation across diverse industry verticals. From optimizing pivotal business decisions to enhancing urban infrastructure, fortifying financial safeguards, fostering improved health outcomes, and more. Synthetic data has emerged as an indispensable tool driving progress in the world of research and analytics.

In today’s dynamic landscape, where companies often their research solutions as comprehensive portrayals of the total population, the truth is that representing the complete spectrum of society in a responsible and accurate manner presents formidable challenges. Even in the unlikely scenario that a business was to acquire all the deterministic mobile data accessible in the United States, it would still represent a mere fraction of the movement of the total population.

By artfully interweaving real-world data with a meticulously crafted synthetic population database, Motionworks ®transcends the limitations of conventional approaches. Through the synergy of real-world and synthetic data, we chart a course towards a more nuanced and profound understanding of human mobility and behaviors without the need for skirting ethical issues and privacy regulations.

How is a Synthetic Population Developed?

In order to create a synthetic population, Motionworks® takes the information that it knows about each census block group – such as the demographics and distribution of the people who live there. Then, using artificial intelligence, Motionworks® creates a fully representative model of the total population. The synthetic population looks like the real population in all the ways that are important to Motionworks®, including age, income, ethnicity, gender, and how many people live in each dwelling.

The concept of a synthetic population may seem a bit confusing, but it is very similar to what is happening in some of the most common consumer-focused artificial intelligence applications today.

Many people are familiar with online art generators that are powered by AI, such as Nightcafe.

In order to create these applications, AI models are fed countless images of artwork that were created by real humans. After rounds and rounds of machine learning, the AI gets better and better at creating its own synthetic artwork, and eventually, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the synthetic art created by AI and the art created by humans.

A simple prompt of “a beautiful sunset in autumn” generates a piece of art that contains all of the elements of a sunset in autumn, the sky, trees with amber leaves, clouds – but it was synthetically generated. This is very similar to the way a synthetic population is created. A synthetic population looks, feels, moves, and behaves just like the real population.

Synthetic Population in Action: An Example

Imagine that a city wants to understand what will happen to the traffic flow if adds toll booths every two miles on the highway. Rather than building the toll booths and then dealing with real life repercussions, the toll booths can be “built” in a simulated environment.

Since the synthetic population still needs to get to work on time and pick up the kids after school, they will still go about their day, but will encounter the synthetic toll booths, which will then impact how long it takes them to get to their destinations. The simulated people may opt to take an alternate routes or leave earlier in the morning. Their may be traffic jams, slow-downs, an influx of traffic on bridges and tunnels, or increased traffic on residential streets. The impact of this many tolls in such proximity, would undoubtedly have an impact on the flow of traffic throughout the city as well as the drain on the city’s infrastructure.

Utilizing a synthetic population, the city is able to understand the impact of the tolls without ever having to build a single booth. In fact, the city can test multiple permutations of installations – varying the count and distance of toll booth installations and can use the insights generated to make better infrastructure decisions on behalf of its residents.

Motionworks® utilizes its Synthetic Population to help predict real world outcomes when hypothetical changes are made to the way people move about their day. These changes may be toll booth installations such as those discussed above, or may involve situations such as emergency city evacuations, double of the population in a geography, building a new shopping center, or installing public transportation options. We call this “Futurecasting.”

The Advantages of Using a Synthetic Population

There are many important reasons that Motionworks® utilizes a synthetic population as a core part of its methodology including:


Motionworks® is committed to providing insights in an anonymized, aggregated, and privacy-compliant way across all of our solutions. Motionworks® data does not provide insights into individual behaviors and cannot be reverse-engineered or manipulated to provide such information. Utilizing synthetic populations to understand population behavior is recognized as a process that preserves the confidentiality of individuals while providing realistic, representative data outputs.

Total Population Metrics.

The Motionworks® approach is developed to measure everyone, everywhere, all the time, rather than measuring device activity within a target polygon. There is no source of deterministic data available today that can provide persistent, accurate information on the location of every individual in the country. Only through the use of a synthetic population derived from a large deterministic data sample is total population measurement achievable.


The Motionworks® data set that is produced from this synthetic population reflects where everyone in the country is at any given moment in aggregation, allowing the data to be cut in a variety of ways and geographic resolutions while maintaining integrity.

How Synthetic Populations Are Validated

Motionworks® validates its Synthetic Population against multiple datasets in each geography. In the United States, it is validated against the US Census and Claritas Popfacts. In Canada, it’s validated against the Canadian Census and Environics Analytics. Our synthetic population aligns very closely with these datasets. More detailed information on our validation is available for the United States and Canada.

Key Use Cases of Synthetic Populations

It’s not just Motionworks® that uses synthetic population analytics. Many major companies are using this type of data to make better business decisions daily.

Marrying Synthetic Data with Real Data to Generate Population Intelligence

Our work does not stop with the generation of the Synthetic Population dataset, although many clients may find that database a worthwhile product on its own.

Motionworks® layers other datasets onto the Synthetic Population database to curate our Population Intelligence solutions. These include:

Conclusion: Summarizing Motionworks’ Use of Synthetic Populations for Comprehensive Location Measurement

The use of synthetic data sets is growing in popularity across multiple industry verticals. In fact, Gartner predicted in the Wall Street Journal that “By 2024, 60% of the data used for the development of AI and analytics projects will be synthetically generated.”

Motionworks® stands as a beacon of privacy-conscious measurement. Our commitment to anonymized and aggregated insights that represent the full population, coupled with the pioneering use of AI to generate synthetic populations and population intelligence reshapes the mobility data landscape.

For more information about how Motionworks® utilizes synthetic populations and how we can put our insights to work for your business, please reach out to us at [email protected].


Data Intelligence for Urban Planning

Posted on: July 28th, 2023 by Jaclyn Giordano

Data science is becoming an integral component of urban planning. Yet, many planners are still uncomfortable utilizing the data, connecting it to their workflows, and understanding what options are available for management and visualization.   

Our very own Cynthia Albright, FAICP, CUD, GISP, Vice President of Planning here at Motionworks® delivered valuable insights for the Carolina Planning Journal on the advantages and application of mobility data for more intelligent urban planning decisions.   

Founded in 1974, the Carolina Planning Journal is housed within the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill. Their vision aims to create cutting-edge content that inspires practitioners, academics, and students through real-world insights.  

Cynthia embraced population intelligence early. She was fascinated by the ability to aggregate device sightings by pre-defined geographies and apply that to her work in transportation, multimodal planning and transit by identifying population volumes, times of travel, travel days, home locations, work locations and much more. She was part of a team that won the National Gold Award for Transportation Planning from the American Planning Association in 2019 for a project completed for the Tahoe Transportation District. 

Advocating for data utilization in planning, Cynthia believes it is important to recognize that population intelligence can aid in advancing social infrastructure equity in communities with regards to essential public services, public transit, bike share access, and opportunities to improve pedestrian and bicycle experiences.  

The article covers insights into population movement intelligence, urban planning agency applications, understanding pricing models and data curation. “A successful economic development plan requires a clear understanding of the market, including employers, employees, home and work locations, transportation services and usage, and popular commercial destinations,” writes Cynthia.  

Motionworks® International provides responsible urban planning data solutions to municipal agencies, universities, financial institutions, engineering firms, and real estate developers in near real-time.   

Motionworks’® transportation data profiles person trips, not vehicle trips, based on our synthetic population that represents the movements of over 300+ million people. We help our customers access observed travel patterns, person itineraries, and places data on a nationwide scale for transportation solutions.  

How can we help you utilize population intelligence on your next Urban Planning project? Let’s connect.  

Introducing Popcast™ at Home

Posted on: July 17th, 2023 by Jaclyn Giordano

Popcast at Home provides users the ability to quantify the population of Motionworks® and Custom Cohorts residing within specific geographies. 

This means you can analyze population intelligence on people living in neighborhoods across the United States and Canada. 

You will get insights into geographies and custom cohorts like: 

The Popcast at Home Product Delivers: 

Audience Activation. 

Thinking about a direct mail, local radio, or targeted OOH campaign?  Utilize Popcast data for local and regional marketing initiatives by quantifying audiences by count, as well as composition in specific geographies.  

Customer Acquisition.  

Ready to conquest competitor’s locations or scale efforts based on your best customers?  Popcastwill help you understand how many potential customers are living within a specific place, as well as where your competitors’ customers are.  

Location Planning. 

Looking to expand your franchise or retail store based on where your future customers live? Popcast quantifies the types of people who live in various areas of a region so you can optimize your real estate placement strategy, infrastructure installation, and your coordinating marketing. 


Popcast at Home Can Integrate with Your Data Sets: 

Motionworks can integrate first- or third-party data into our solution to identify unique audiences and scale them to the full population.  Here are a few integrations thought starters: 

Popcast at Home is Built to Help: 

Marketers: Understand your potential market in nearby postal codes to maximize your marketing budget.

Publishers: Recommend targeted inventory to your advertisers based on the residence of their ideal audience.

Agencies: Help your clients visualize where their customers live and show them how to best reach them using OOH.

Integrators: Connect the geographies of target residences to your DSP for audience targeting and plan optimization.

Retailers: Pinpoint the best location for your next store within walking distance of your customers’ homes.


Get Data to Answer Questions Like: 

How many people are living in Charleston, South Carolina that are in the market for an electric vehicle?

What neighborhoods in Denver should I advertise in to reach the highest number of people who drink craft beer? 

Where should I consider putting my next organic coffee shop in Florida based on where potential eco-conscious coffee drinkers live?  

What 5 markets should I buy for my national OOH campaign to reach the highest number of wealthy soccer fans?  

Three Easy Ways to Access Popcast at Home Population Intelligence: 

  1. API: Direct integration into third-party platforms.
  2. Snowflake: Download data directly.
  3. Citycast™: Motionworks® proprietary software. 


Ready to dive into Popcast at Home? We’re here to help. Book a demo here.

Motionworks® Launches Placecast® Trade Areas – Now Available in the Snowflake Marketplace

Posted on: July 12th, 2023 by Kym Frank

Motionworks® is excited to now provide its Placecast® Trade Areas data in the Snowflake Marketplace! This valuable dataset can answer questions such as:


Placecast® Trade Areas has a variety of use cases, including:

Market Analysis

Placecast® Trade Areas can determine whether targeted advertising campaigns resulted in increased foot traffic from specific neighborhoods, providing insights into the effectiveness of local marketing strategies.

Location Planning

Placecast® Trade Areas provide valuable insights into customer travel distances and identify underserved neighborhoods for optimized real estate site selection. By determining the distance customers are willing to travel to a particular location, businesses can make informed decisions about their real estate choices. Additionally, Placecast® Trade Areas help identify areas where businesses are not currently serving customers, allowing them to target those neighborhoods for potential expansion or improvement.

Foot Traffic Analytics

Placecast® Trade Areas can help visitation bureaus understand tourism patterns by providing information about the origin of visitors and any changes in their travel patterns over time.

Location Data Enrichment

Placecast® Trade Areas provides valuable information for market mix models by determining the number of local residents and visitors in a specific market throughout the year. This data helps in analyzing seasonal trends and quantifying non-resident customer opportunities.

For more information, reach out to us at [email protected] or visit us on the Snowflake Marketplace.


Motionworks® at the 2022 National ASLA Conference

Posted on: November 28th, 2022 by Kym Frank No Comments

The 2022 National ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture and EXPO drew more than 6,000 attendees and 350 exhibitors on November 11-14.

Motionworks’ Vice President of Planning, Cynthia Albright, FAICP CUD, GISP joined Emily McCoy, PLA ASLA, SITES AP, Principal at Design Workshop to present a 90-minute Digital Technology education session, “Big Data Drives Bigger Impact: Data and Tools for Equity in Design.” Cynthia discussed the definition, types, scales, sources, application, visualization techniques, and questions to be asked when acquiring location-based services data. She covered the value of a synthetic population over a geofenced approach to inspire decision makers to action in order to build more equitably sustainable communities. She also presented Motionworks’ data before, during, and after Hurricane Ian to reveal the travel patterns of the most at-risk Hendry County residents (high poverty rate, high number of children and seniors) from those counties directly in the eye of the Hurricane. Emily demonstrated relevant application in existing conditions analysis, user behavior and sentiment, mode usage in parks, and prioritization of park amenities and projects.

Key takeaways: A synthetic or digital population provides a virtual representation of a true actual population from 300+ million people; population intelligence provides new design opportunities for equitable access to infrastructure and services, site selection, market and gap analysis, redevelopment planning, mobile trade areas, scenario planning, and predictive modeling.