You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Columbia company's cellphone data maps show how coronavirus can spread

WBAL TV Baltimore logo WBAL TV Baltimore 4/6/2020

A Howard County company that tracks cellphone data said it could help us understand how an epidemic like the coronavirus spreads.

|| Late-breaking coronavirus updates | Maryland's latest numbers ||

Sign up for our Newsletters

If you have a cellphone, it's probably leaving an electronic trail of your where you are going -- when you drive, walk, use other means of transportation.

A big reason many states imposed strict stay-home orders was information showing how much people were still moving about.

Rob Gresham and Elliot Bradshaw co-founded a company in Columbia that they call Tectonix. They use mostly cellphone data collected by another company to map data points at high speed.

The densely populated New York-area has been a coronavirus hot spot with the highest case count in the country. According to mapping by Tectonix, New York has also had many people from the area spreading out to other parts of the country.

"When we ran our search queries and saw what was happening in New York, it was frightening for us because we thought there was a general assumption people in the tri-state area were not traveling much, but when we zoomed in and saw how much movement from the tri-state area was still going all across the country, it was eye opening," Gresham said.

They focused on travel from the New York-area to Maryland during the third week of March.

"We wanted to basically show for the folks that were in the densest area of the coronavirus outbreak, where they could potentially be spreading out around the country to determine what the path might be," Bradshaw said.

The company got a lot of attention earlier in March when it mapped how Florida spring breakers fanned out across the country, setting off alarms about uncontained spread of the virus.

"The thrust of our argument was that people, they need to be taking social distancing seriously," Bradshaw said.

"We think we can work with health officials. If someone is positive and they are in a location, we can work with health officials about the locations they were in to help inform the public," Gresham said.

The use of cellphone data often sparks concern about privacy. In this case, the data is collected by a different company, and much of this type of mapping is being done to track the effectiveness of social distancing.


More coronavirus testing sites opening in Maryland; test kit supplies are limited

Doctors: Best weapons in coronavirus fight is social distancing, staying home

College student returns from Peru after being stuck for 3 weeks

Baltimore's vulnerable homeless to be moved from shelters to motels

Baltimore police confirms 8 coronavirus cases; 219 employees on quarantine

Michael Phelps offers encouragement to athletes after 2020 Games postponed

READ THE FULL STORY:Columbia company's cellphone data maps show how coronavirus can spread

CHECK OUT WBAL:Get all the latest Baltimore news, weather and sports. WBAL-TV brings you the best in Maryland news online, anytime.


More from WBAL TV Baltimore

WBAL TV Baltimore
WBAL TV Baltimore
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon