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Apple reveals how Malaysians are moving around differently during the MCO

Apple has published its mobility trends report which provides insights to assist local governments and health authorities in their effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The report uses data from Apple Maps based on aggregated data generated by the number of requests made for directions. The public is able to access reports for major cities and 63 countries around the world including Malaysia.

Apple Mobility Trends Report

According to the mobility report, the number of requests on Apple Maps for driving and walking in Malaysia has dropped significantly when the movement control order was imposed in mid-March 2020. However, the numbers gradually picked up in the subsequent weeks. It was recently reported that it is possible that traffic has been increasing due to several sectors are being allowed to operate in phases during the MCO.

As of 13th April, the number of driving requests in Malaysia has dropped 50% below baseline and walking has decreased by 61% for the same period. If you look at Kuala Lumpur specifically, the line is actually much flatter. On 13th April, it stands at -66% for driving and -80% for walking.

Unfortunately, there’s no transit data for Malaysia. As a comparison, Singapore’s mobility trend shows 63% drop for driving, 72% drop in walking and 86% drop in transit for the same period.

Apple says they are committed to user privacy and the mobility report is not associated with a user’s Apple ID and they do not keep a history of where a user has been. The data collected are compared to reflect the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transportation around the world. They noted that data availability is subject to several factors including minimum thresholds for direction requests per day.

The Cupertino company emphasised that privacy is built into the core of Maps. Data collected such as search terms, navigation routing and traffic information will be associated with random and rotating identifiers that are constantly reset. According to Apple, this means there won’t be a profile of your movements and searches.

Google community mobility report

Google has also provided their own community mobility data earlier this month which aims to assist public health officials during the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of aggregating data of map directions, Google’s mobility report looks into the movement to places of various categories such as retail, grocery, parks, transit stations, offices and residential.

In their current report dated 5th April, visits to retail and recreation in Malaysia has dropped by 81% compared to the baseline while grocery & pharmacy recorded a 58% drop. It is interesting to note that Google recorded a spike for grocery shopping on 15th March, which is to be expected before the MCO was announced.

Predictably, the movement to workplaces have dropped 51% compared to baseline and while transit stations have recorded an 84% drop.

Similar to Apple, Google also emphasised that the reports are based on aggregated and anonymised data to chart movement trends over time by location. At the moment, they cover 131 countries and regions and they will provide more updates and additional countries in the coming weeks.

In case you missed it, Apple and Google have jointly announced that they are working together to develop a Bluetooth-based contact tracking platform. The APIs is expected to be released in May and it will support interoperability between Android and iOS devices.

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